TEXT OF THE SPEECH [Excerpts]
The Union Minister of Social Justice & Empowerment Shri Mukul Wasnik addressed the 10th Editors’ Conference on Social Sector Issues (ECCSI) here today. On this Occasion, the Minister of State Shri. D. Napolean and Secretary (SJ&E) Shri K. M. Acharya were also present.
- In pursuance of the provisions of the Constitution, several initiatives have been taken by the Government for the empowerment of persons with disabilities from time to time. This has resulted in a fundamental change from a welfare model to a rights based approach to all the issues concerning the lives of persons with disabilities. Promotion of greater accessibility and barrier free environment for them is a prime objective of the Ministry and it is the first among the Central Ministries to have re-designed its website making it accessible to persons with disabilities. Other Ministries and their associated organizations are also expected to rapidly follow suit. To encourage the development of “accessible” websites, the Ministry has instituted a new category in its Scheme of National Awards for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities under which three awards – one each for government, public and private sector websites will be given every year for the best “accessibility” features.
- The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act in 1995, paved the way for realization of the rights of persons with disabilities. It is now nearly 15 years old and needs several amendments so as to harmonize it with UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to which India is a signatory and which came into force in May 2008. A series of consultation meetings were held during 2007-08 and 2008-09 in various parts of the country with stakeholders, to elicit suggestions for amending the Act. We have placed a comprehensive amendment proposal on the Ministry’s website and are consulting State Governments, Central Ministries and stakeholders on this draft, which is expected to be finalized in the next few months.
- The Ministry has a scheme of giving assistive aids and appliances to persons with disability. These are provided free to beneficiaries with a monthly income of Rs 6500/- and at 50% of the cost to those with a monthly income between Rs 6500/- and Rs 10,000/-. The scheme is implemented through NGOs, recommended by the State Governments, as well as the seven National Institutes working under the Ministry. About 2 lakh persons with disabilities are covered under the scheme annually.
- There are seven National Institutes under the Ministry working in the field of disability, viz. three working for loco motor disabilities, one each in area of visual, mental and hearing disabilities, and one in the field of multiple disabilities. These institutes are engaged in human resource development in the field of disability, provide rehabilitation services to persons with disabilities and also carry out research and development. About 5 lakh persons are provided rehabilitation services annually by these National Institutes.
- Under the Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS), Ministry gives financial assistance to NGOs, for running various rehabilitation activities like Special Schools and Vocational Training Centres. About 2 lakh beneficiaries are covered under this scheme annually. Financial norms under the scheme have been revised from the current financial year.
- A new Scheme of Incentives to Employers in the Private Sector for Providing Employment to Persons with Disabilities was launched in 2008-09 under which payment of employer’s contribution to the Employees Provident Fund and the Employees State Insurance Corporation for the first three years, is made by the Government of India, in respect of persons with disability appointed by such employers on or after 01.4.2008.