Monday, June 18, 2012

More than 50% PwD have no Disability Certificates

Three of 5 disabled have no proof of their condition
Aditi Tandon/TNS

New Delhi, June 17
Three in every five differently-abled persons in India have no proof of their disability. Seventeen years after the government enacted the Persons with Disabilities Act in 1995 to make life easier for such persons, evidence from across the country shows that only 39.13 pc of them have been issued disability certificates.

Only 12 states, led by Andhra Pradesh, have reported more than 50 per cent coverage of their differently-abled population. Union Territory of Daman and Diu has issued disability certificates to just 1.13 pc of the total differently-abled persons living there, as per 2001 census.

New Delhi is among the poorest performers and has so far given certificates to only 10.19 pc of its physically challenged population. The 2001 Census puts the count of differently-abled persons living in Delhi at 2.36 lakh. Out of them, only about 2,400 persons have got disability certificates until March 31, 2012.

Coverage reported by Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand is also lower than the national average. These states have issued disability certificates to 38.88 pc and 22.23 pc of their respective differently-abled populations.

Overall, out of 216.3 lakh differently-abled persons in India (2001 Census), the government has managed to give official proof of disability only to 84.62 lakh persons till March this year. Around 131.67 lakh differently-abled persons are still awaiting their certificates, reveals the latest data collated by the Office of Chief Commissioner of Disabilities under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

These are shockingly low numbers. Simply put, 60.87 per cent of the differently-abled persons in India can't access the rights guaranteed to them under the law — be it transport concessions, job reservations or quotas in educational institutions. This also explains why year after year, the posts reserved for the differently-abled persons in government offices and seats set aside for them in educational institutes go vacant.

"A disability certificate is the very foundation of the life of a differently-abled person. It is to me what a UID is to you. It is my virtual gateway to the world, to life itself. But the procedure to get this document is so complex in India that most differently-abled persons, mainly the poor, never manage to get it," says Javed Abidi, President, Disability Rights Group, (DRG) an umbrella organisation of NGOs working for in the disability sector.

Under the law, the disability certificate is issued by a medical authority notified by the state government. Each such medical authority is constituted at the district level and is supposed to receive applications from the disabled, assess their disability and issue them a certificate within a week from the receipt of application, if the disability is assessed at 40 per cent. Only a government doctor is authorised to issue a disability certificate for which an applicant is required to come to the district government hospital and represent his case before the medical authority constituted for the purpose.

But the problem is this: Government documents reveal that so far only 16 states in India have notified these medical authorities. These are Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal, Bihar, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Lakshadweep, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu and UP.

The DRG had petitioned the Health Ministry and the PMO earlier saying the delivery of disability certificate should be decentralised down to primary health centre-level so that a poor villager can get his disability assessed without having to take the trouble of coming all the way to the district.

"We ask a simple question. If a passport can be delivered to an applicant at home, what is the problem in delivering a disability certificate at home? A disabled has a greater right over the document because his movement is impaired. We have asked for a simple online application to be designed to allow the disabled to declare their disability. Let the government verify the authenticity of the claim and home deliver the certificates," Abidi says.

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