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 Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Government on Friday introduced the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill in Rajya Sabha (RS), seeking to increase reservation for persons with disabilities in public sector jobs from existing 3% to 5% and reserve seat for them in higher educational institutions.

Persons with disabilities under the proposed legislation – which also seeks to broaden the ambit of disability from seven to 19 sub-categories — will, however, not get such relief soon as the members in Upper House insisted to send it to a standing committee of Parliament for detailed examination before putting it up for discussion and passing.
If the chairman Hamid Ansari agrees to send the Bill to the parliamentary panel, then it won’t be passed during the current session – the last one during the present government.

At present, the reservation for the disabled is only 3% in the ratio of 1% each for people with mobility, vision and hearing disabilities. The new Bill, if passed by the Parliament, will extend the quota by 2%, covering two new additional categories – mental disability and people with multiple disabilities.

The proposed legislation divides the broad categories into various sub-categories, seeking to include as many types of disabilities as possible. It includes, thalassemia and muscular dystrophy besides autism, blindness, cerebral palsy, chronic neurological conditions, mental disability and multiple disabilities.

The Bill, introduced by the Union minister for social justice and empowerment Mallikarjun Kharge, also provides for setting up National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, which will have statutory powers besides establishing a dedicated National Fund for Persons with Disabilities.

The proposed legislation is expected to bring more clarity in defining disability. Anyone suffering 40% disability or more will continue to be defined as a ‘person with disability’.

Besides making provisions to prevent persons with disabilities from harassment while getting disability certificates, the proposal legislation also provides for stringent punitive measures under which anyone violating the provisions could face from six months to five years of imprisonment and a fine from Rs 10,000 to five lakhs.

Demand to send the Bill to standing committee came from CPM members in the House. As soon as Kharge introduced the Bill, the party member Sitaram Yechury rose to his feet demanding that the bill should be referred to a Standing Committee. Deputy chairman P J Kurien, however, said that the chairman Hamid Ansari would take a call on this.

The government had in December last year decided to replace the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995 with the new Bill. It maintained that the proposed legislation is in consonance with the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which India had signed in 2007.

Various Disabled Rights Groups had, however, protested against the Bill in its current form, saying the provisions were not in tune with the norms of UN convention. The groups had identified 20 shortcomings and suggested amendments in the Bill.

Besides introduction of this much awaited Bill, the Upper House could not transact any other business for the third consecutive day on Friday. Member raised various issues including Telangana, corruption and plight of Tamil Nadu fishermen simultaneously as soon as the Rajya Sabha assembles. As the din continued, the House was adjourned for the day after two adjournments during the first half.

(Source: The Times of India)