NGOs join issue with government on ‘divyang’ consultation spin


CHENNAI: Following the raging controversy over the Centre’s decision to replace the term ‘Persons with Disabilities’ (PwD) with ‘Divyang’, an RTI petition filed by a New Delhi-based disabled rights activist has revealed that the authorities had consulted all of six NGOs before deciding the change of the name. What is worse, one of those six alleged that they were never consulted as claimed in the RTI reply.

“No, we were not (consulted). We never received any letter, any invitation. We never attended any meeting, any consultation,” Javed Abibi, honorary director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), said on his social media account.

The officials at the Commissionerate for the Welfare of the Differently Abled here told Express that they did indeed receive a notification, but the Centre took the decision before the State could reply.  As per the gazette notification dated May 17, the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities was renamed as the ‘Divyangjan Sashaktikaran Vibhag’ in Hindi, which attracted a torrent of criticisms from disability rights groups.

Taking up the issue, Delhi-based activist, Abha Khetarpal, a polio survivor, filed an RTI petition with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment as well as PMO in late February. The Department of Empowerment of PwD’s replied that it was in consultation with various States and organisations on the issue. Noting that consultations were held with just six organisations and a few central agencies, Khetarpal added, “How is that an issue as serious like this is considered without a wide-ranging public consultation?”  Vaishnavi Jayakumar, founder-trustee of Banyan, pointed out how the Canadian government took inputs from the community before deciding to rename federal aboriginal affairs department last year.

Nomenclature not accepted

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi first invoked the term ‘Divyang’ last December, he suggested that physically- challenged people have a divine ability. However, the term ‘Divyang’ is viewed by several differently abled people and rights organisations as regressive and condescending. Says Abha Khetarpal, a psychologist, “The term is nothing more than a label which can have huge repercussions. By affording divine status to PwDs, it can lead to identity crisis in them. Persons with Disabilities shouldn’t be treated any differently than any other normal person.”

New Indian Express