NEW DELHI: The Centre is seeking a legal base for use of the term ‘divyang’ for persons with disabilities after Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested that the word be used to replace ‘viklang’. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has invited views from all stakeholders, including states and Union territories (UTs), in this regard. “Prime Minister in a recently broadcast radio programme ‘Man ki Baat’ has suggested that persons with disabilities should be called as ‘divyang’ instead of ‘viklang’.
“With a view to taking forward the use of the word ‘divyang’ i.e. ‘persons with extraordinary abilities’ and giving a legal base for the use of this word, the department intends to invite the views of all stakeholders including States/UTs,” the letter sent to state governments and UTs said. The letter sought “inputs/comments regarding the use of the word ‘divyang’ in place of ‘Persons with Disabilities’ for all practical purposes, including in the legal instrument.” The phrase ‘Persons with Disabilities’ is used in the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, and in the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
“‘Person with Disabilities’ is being used so that the self-esteem and dignity of the persons with disabilities is not compromised,” the letter added. However, several disabled people’s organisations today strongly objected to the use of the term ‘divyang’ to address the community and urged Modi to not use it to replace ‘viklang’. In a letter to the PM, they said that disability was not a divine gift and that the use of phrases like ‘divyang’ in no way ensures de-stigmatisation or an end to discrimination on grounds of disability. The organisations further said that the government should address the issues of stigma, discrimination and marginalisation that persons with disabilities are subjected to on account of the cultural, social, physical and attitudinal barriers that hinder their effective participation in the country’s economic, social and political life.
“We would, therefore, request you to refrain from using the term ‘divyang’ and also shelve any plan that the government may be making to officially use this term,” the organisations said.