Use of ‘Divyang’ will not end discrimination, access to rightful entitlements will: Disability Rights Groups

NEW DELHI: The National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled, a voluntary network has raised objection to the use of term “divyang” to address people with disabilities. The Disability rights group has written to Prime Minister Narendra Mod seeking his intervention to withdraw the notification renaming ‘viklangjan’ as ‘divyangjan’ in Hindi nomenclature of Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.

In its letter to the PM the Disability rights group draws attention to the gazette notification of May 17 renaming the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities as the ‘Divyangjan Sashaktikaran Vibhag’ in Hindi. “Disability is not a divine gift. And the use of phrases like ‘divyang’ in no way ensure de-stigmatisation or an end to discrimination on grounds of disability,” The National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled, secretary Muralidharan has said in the letter.

“What needs to be addressed are 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. Mere change of terminology is not in any way going to alter this,” it added.

The disability rights group had earlier written a letter to the PM in January objecting to the word “Divyang” when Modi had referred to replacement of the word ‘viklaang’ with the word ‘divyang’ during his monthly broadcast of ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme.

“We had pointed out in our letter that invoking divinity will in no way lessen the stigma and discrimination that persons with disabilities have been historically subjected to and continue to encounter in their daily lives. Exclusion and marginalisation cannot be addressed by using patronising terms like ‘divyang’,” the voluntary network had argued. The idea of replacing Viklaang with Divyang was presented at the launch of teh Accessible India Campaign in December last year, where the PM’s message was read out by finance minister Arun Jaitley. The usage of the word has since then evoked a mixed response from activists and voluntary organisations working with the disabled.

Meanwhile, Convenor of Disabled Rights Group (DRG) Javed Abidi said that while he has not particular preference for the word “divyang” but if he has to choose one he would prefer divyang over viklaang as the latter carries in its meaning a lot of negativity. However, he is clear that what he is more concerned about is the lack of effective measures to make life better for disabled persons. “I am not happy with the way the Accessible India program is being executed. Also what about the law for disabled persons that the government has been promising for long. It is more important to focus on issues that can give people with disabilities quality of life instead of focusing on cosmetic changes,” Abidi said.

Ambika Pandit | Times of India | May 26, 2016

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