Showing posts with label Disabled. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Disabled. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

An unending struggle for the disabled: Experiences of Ms. Shalini Sethi

Dear Friends,

Today, I am sharing with you a write up by Ms. Shalini Sethi who initially named it "Plight of the Disabled", however, I have suggested the name "An unending struggle of the disabled- Experiences of Ms. Shalini Sethi. 

Article raises few very crucial points on the existing status of the employment scenario for the disabled,  administration of justice as well as work conditions that prevails for persons with disabilities especially for women. I am thankful to Ms. Sethi for sharing this article and agreeing for wider circulation and publishing it here on this blog. 

Here is the article:

An unending struggle of the disabled: Experiences of Ms. Shalini Sethi, Delhi -a promising human resource with disability.

Hon’ble Prime Minister, addressing a conference of state ministers of welfare and social justice on 7th September, 2009, expressed his displeasure at the progress of the ambitious Public-Private Partnership Scheme to generate employment for the disabled.

2. Ironically, the performance in the Public Sector too has not been any bright. The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 came into effect on 1.1.1996. The Act made 3% reservations in identified posts for persons with disabilities in all Government establishments, including bodies substantially funded by the Government, to provide them equal opportunities and also to ensure their full participation. These vacancies were equally allocated to three identified types of disabilities viz.(i) blindness and low vision;(ii) hearing impairment; (iii) locomotor disability or cerebral palsy, but were interchangeable in case of non-availability  of suitable candidates in any of these disabilities. There are indications that the establishments have not been fair. Over the years, unfilled vacancies in one form of disability have not been transferred and filled up by other suitable form, as per the directions given in the Act, to manipulate their overall 3% quota. Rather these vacancies were either carried forward or transferred to the non-reserved category, thereby blatantly depriving the disabled their full share of equal opportunities. Besides, the appropriate Governments are given the authority of exemption, taking away large chunk of vacancies out of their reach, making 3% reservation nothing but farce.

3. I was born with multiple congenital deformities, affecting my upper and lower limbs. I am thankful to my parents and the Doctors, who helped me to stand on my feet. I had to bear incessant body pains and had to undergo continuous medical treatment, all through my school and college days, which affected my grades. I passed B.Com. Examination from Delhi University, in 1991 and obtained Diploma in System Management from NIIT in 1993. The struggle only strengthened my determination. I did several private jobs, during which I acquired experience in communication skills, customer relations, customer care and management as centre head, but was constrained to travel long distances and the jobs I got were not stable. I applied for disability certificate, quite late in my life at the age of 35 yrs., expecting that this might help me in getting suitable job in Government organization. This certificate first issued to me on 20.5.2006, took almost one year, facing lot of hassles, finally assessing me with permanent disability of 48%. Thereafter, I started trying for a job in government establishments but my experience here too has been frustrating.

4. In November, 2006 the Income Tax, Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance; Government of India invited applications to train 5000 graduates to become Tax Return Preparers (TRPs). Constrained by my mobility problems, this scheme offered a good opportunity for me. I fulfilled the required qualifications but needed slight relaxation in age.  The scheme was entirely funded by the Government, including the cost of training, arranged through NIIT; also providing these TRPs their logistic support, thereby fulfilling all the parameters of the Act, but not providing relaxation and consideration for persons with disabilities. The matter was timely brought to the notice of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, who is supposed to protect the interest of persons with disabilities, but he failed to take timely action. The plea was rejected on the ground that the Act made no specific provisions for such self-employment schemes. Sadly, this happened at a time, when the then Hon’ble Finance Minister announced the ambitious scheme of Public-Private Partnership to generate more opportunities for persons with disabilities, while his own Department was blocking even their legitimate opportunities. It is unfortunate that the respondent department did not present the correct picture of this scheme before the Court of the Chief Commissioner, claiming that was only to facilitate training of these TRPs and that they were not under any contract with the Government or with any other person or organization to function as TRPs, either for the purpose of employment or otherwise, while the fact as on date is these TRPs may not be the direct employees of the Government, the Department is still actively supporting them, spending Government money on advertising their services through its website or otherwise, maintaining a Resource Center for them, retraining them in filing returns in other taxation matters, arranging concessional finance through public sector Banks etc. Respondents committed before the said Court that it proposed to conduct more of such training programmes, but has not come out with any such program, after their first selection nor the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment seem to have considered it appropriate to facilitate reservation and relaxations to persons with disabilities in such self-employment and development of entrepreneurship skills for them.     

 5. Around this time SBI, PNB also made massive recruitments of clerks. I could not apply for these jobs because I slightly fell short of their percentage of marks requirements. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, in recent times, too has made lot of recruitments but it seems that it is yet to find any suitable posts for persons with disabilities. Delhi Jal Board, Delhi Subordinate Selection Board, Employees State Insurance Corporation, advertised the posts of clerks, requiring compulsory speed in typing, difficult for persons with in coordination of muscles in hands. The Income Tax Department advertised the post of Tax Assistants, requiring high level of data entry speed. LIC Housing Finance Corporation, promoted by LIC, a Government sponsored body, advertised the post of customer care executives but did not make any relaxation, claiming to be a non-government body.  I was well qualified for these posts but could not apply because I could not meet their requirements, without the legitimate relaxations. I also registered with the Special Employment Exchange set up by the Government to help persons with disabilities to find a suitable job, but in 4-5 years I am yet to receive any call. I lost these opportunities because  the Government departments, the public sector Banks and institutions do not honestly, sincerely and seriously follow the Persons with Disabilities Act and the extant instructions, guidelines and directions, as contained in  the Department of Personnel & Training  OM dated 29.12.2005.

6. I finally got a job with the IDBI Bank, through an all India test conducted by the Bank. This job of an Executive, though initially on contract, on year to year basis, was to lead to final absorption in the service of the Bank as Assistant Managers over the period of 4 years, through a selection process. I joined this Bank on 26.11.2007. Having struggled a lot, this job was a good opportunity for me. I worked really very hard and was performing very well. However, then came a new Branch Head, who joined my branch in July, 2008 started harassing me for no reason, even teasing me on my disability perhaps due to ignorance or due to his attitude towards disability. I bore his indignities for over 3 months hoping that he also will go one day and some new Head will replace him. However, finding no respite, I was compelled to complain against his misbehavior to the Head, HRD on 21.11.2008. Four days later, on 25.11.2008, when I was about to leave the Bank, after day’s work, I was served a fax message that the Bank has not renewed my first year contract, expiring on the same date by efflux of time. My father wrote to the Head, HRD, on 1.1.2009, reminding him on the complaint, seeking proper justice but received no response. He then lodged a formal complaint, on my behalf, with the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities on 24.2.2009, followed by an e-mail sent to him on 1.3.2009.

7. My experience at the Chief Commissioner’s office was again very frustrating. The Chief Commissioner is bestowed with judicial powers under the PwD Act, to safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities, listen to their complaints of harassment and discrimination. However, he  took full 13 months to arrange some sort of hearing. My first complaint made on 24.2.2009 was rejected outright in April 2009, not following the prescribed procedure as laid downs in the Rules framed under the PwD Act, consideration of the complete facts and my personal complaint of harassment, ruling the complaint inappropriate, claiming that the terms and conditions of the contract gave the Bank unconditional discretion not to renew my contract, which was factually incorrect. My father  took up this matter again with the said Chief Commissioner in August, 2009, this time with  relevant data, collected through RTI application, establishing that  the Bank was not honest, sincere and serious in  following the provisions of the PwD Act, extant rules and regulations, instructions, guidelines, directions etc., as  contained in Department of Personnel & Training. Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions OM No. 336035/3/2004 Estt.(Res) dated 29.12.2005, and, therefore, discriminating against the persons with disabilities. This time again the Chief Commissioner, still not following the proper procedure, nearly 4 months later, simply forwarded this complaint to the Bank on 7.12.2009, advising the Bank to take action in accordance with the Government OM of DOP&T. Eventually, on third petition of my father on 19.11.2009, the Chief Commissioner issued another order on 2.3.2010, fixing the date of hearing on 22.3.2010.

8. The hearing that followed was conducted in undue hurry, not properly listening to facts, the evidence produced, the arguments that I had to give him a written brief, explaining all facts, data, proofs to counter the submissions made by the respondent, which was followed by an e-mail sent to him immediately thereafter, but he ignored all these submissions. Consequently, the order he issued on 5.4.2010 was not only vague, inconsistent but also not based on evidence and facts, presented before his Court. To him, the Act, the extant instructions, directions etc.  and OM issued by DOP&T, which he earlier advised the Bank to follow, were of no significance. He completely relied on the review report given by the Branch Head, the person I had complained for my harassment. The Deputy Chief Commissioner also did not feel it necessary to call him to depose, ignoring my complaint filed against him, completely. The facts, data, evidence produced before the Deputy Chief Commissioner were quite clear and he could have given me proper justice, rather than forcing me to knock the doors of the High Court.

9. The High Court took notice of my petition in May, 2010 and fixed the date for hearing on August 30, 2010. Hearing was held on due date but fresh date had to be given because the Advocate for the Union of India, Ministry of Social Justice failed to file its reply in time while the Advocate for IDBI Bank informed that he was engaged by the Bank a day before and as such needed time for making preparations and file the reply. It looks that these responsible establishments of the Government were not so mindful of their accountability and the Courts in India a bit lenient. The next date of Hearing is fixed on October 18, 2010. Hopefully this will sail through, but my age does not wait for me. I will be 40 yrs. old, coming December.

The Malady

10. The National Policy for persons with disabilities, declared by the said Ministry, accepts that the persons with disabilities are valuable human resource for the country. It is realized that a majority of persons with disabilities can lead a better quality of life if they have equal opportunities and effective access to rehabilitation measures. The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 was passed and came into operation on 7th February, 1996, which makes provisions for their employment, to give them equal opportunities and ensure their full participation etc. This Legislation was made following the Proclamation signed in the Meet of the Economic and Social for Asian and Pacific Region at Beijing in December 1992 to launch the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons 1993-2002. India was one of the signatories of this Proclamation, which, among others, required the signatory countries to spell out the responsibility of the state protection of their rights, remove any discrimination, counteract any abuse and exploitation, equalization of opportunities and make special provision of their integration in the social milieu.

11. It is sad that fifteen years later, persons with disabilities like me, still have to fight for their rights under the Act for equal opportunities and full participation to become part of the mainstream of the society. The Act is a beneficent legislation and has to be perceived by its intent, as enshrined in its preamble and the commitment, the Government made in the above important Meet. It seems that this Act is not being seen in its proper perception and the appropriate governments do not look very keen to implement it in its proper perspective, giving undue discretion which does not seem to have been properly utilized. The administration, the courts, the private employers, the people, all have equal responsibility. The data given in the National Policy, issued by the nodal Ministry, indicate status of reservation of 3.07%, 4.41%, 3.76% and 3.18% in Group A, B, C & D in Government departments, in identified posts in Oct.2006. Similar reservation in PSUs, is given as 2.78%, 8.54%, 5.04% and 6.75%, respectively. This seemingly does not give the realistic picture, because of exemption granted or not granted to the establishments. The point at issue is that there is appropriate provision in the Act, reiterated  by DOP&T OM dated 29.12.2005 issued by the Department of Personnel, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, for interchangeability transfer of the reserved vacancies for persons with disabilities from one disability to another suitable disability, to maintain the equilibrium of minimum 3%, reservations for them, which most Government establishments do not seem to be following and instead filling up these posts by open quota. The Delhi High Court has even ruled that that this equilibrium should be implemented, considering the total staff strength in the organizations, (though the matter has reached Supreme Court and there is a stay on High Court’s ruling for time being). The High Court has even ruled that the organizations should even work out suitable posts in their establishments to absorb overall 3% persons with disabilities in their organization. It should also be made obligatory for private institutions to make appropriate provision, by giving them incentive or other-wise levying social responsibility tax.

12.  The Constitution of India ensures equality, freedom, justice and dignity of all individuals. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the nodal Ministry, among others, for persons with disabilities, admits that it implicitly mandates an inclusive society for all including persons with disabilities. Here it is apt to quote the Ex- Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Shri A.P. Shah, speaking at a National Meet of NGOs on ‘Rejuvenating Partnership’, “Distress and humiliation the persons with disabilities suffer in the country is something that disturbs our conscience of inclusive governance.” He said.  “The country needs to call for a new rights-based approach to ensure social inclusiveness of the disabled.” The Policy admits that the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 came into operation 10 years ago (now 15 years) and that with the experience gained in the implementation of the Act and developments in the disability sector, certain amendments to the Act have become necessary, but it seems that the Ministry of Social Justice is yet to bring out any appropriate amendment proposals.     
13. Apart from reservations for employment in Government establishments, the Act also provide for affirmative action, which include preferential allotment of land at concessional rates for purpose of house, setting up business. The National Policy envisages setting up supporting structure of services by way of vocational rehabilitation centers and vocational training centers. The Policy further states that considering slow pace of growth in employment opportunities in the organized sector, self-employment of persons with disabilities will be promoted. This will be done through vocational education and management training. Further, the existing system of providing loans at softer terms from the NHFDC will be improved to make it easily accessible with transparent and efficient procedures of processing. The Government will also encourage self-employment by providing incentives, tax concessions, exemptions from duties, preferential treatment for procurement of goods and services by the Government from the enterprises of persons with disabilities, etc. Priority in financial support will be given to Self Help Groups formed by the persons with disabilities. It seems that these policies have existed since the inception of the Act. It has to be seen how far these have benefitted the persons with disabilities. There seem to be no transparency in these schemes. There seems to be hardly any control of the policy implementation authorities on conditions applied. For instance the standard permanent disability of 40% required for eligibility of various concessions but for the dealership etc .the Oil companies demand 40% permanent/partial disability of either upper or lower limbs or 50% permanent/ partial  disability of both upper and lower limb together. The candidate’s income, also including the income of his parents, if he is a dependent should not be more than Rs.50000 per annum. The scheme further states that the company will provide the selected candidates in SC/ST working capital for dealership but no such provision has been made for PH category, expected to arrange the required finance with meager income of Rs.50000. There must be some agency of the Government to watch the rationality of such schemes.

14. The Act commits that appropriate Government and local authorities shall by notification frame schemes in favor of persons with disabilities, for the preferential allotment of land at concessional rates for houses, setting up business etc.  DDA, in the year 2008, allotted flats, which gave only 1% reservation for persons with disabilities, as against 3% such reservation made in other states. It allowed 5% rebate in the cost subject to maximum of Rs. 1.00 lac, on the condition that such flat shall not be alienated for 15 yrs. As these flats were to be handed over on free hold basis, the DDA was not able to clarify how they were going to enforce this clause. There were no such conditions put for any other categories of reservation, which saw a scam that engaged the Government, its economic offence wing and the media for long but still does not seem to have been completely resolved.

15. There are many other issues like the issue of disability certificate, social security measures, which are not transparent and need to be looked into. Selected Government Hospitals, only authorized to issue disability certificates, are too crowded, not properly able to give appropriate attention to persons claiming disability certificates, with large number of other out patients; the doctors do not seem properly trained and sensitized; the authorities are not clear of the criteria and procedures; there is no accountability, which lead to avoidable delays. With the standards of disability fixed, modern tools available to assess the extent of disability, its period etc. it should not be so difficult task as is made out to be. It seems that the revised guidelines issued under DOP&T OM dated 29. 12 2005, rather than easing the certificate has made it more complicated, creating many more classes of disability.

 16. The Income Tax gives relief to the families, deduction of Rs.10000 from their taxable income, to the families not because they have to bring up and support their family members with disabilities for life but for medical facilities.  The pension rules of the Government allow nomination of dependent unmarried daughters above the age of 25 years at par with  widowed/divorced daughters for family pension but in case of  unmarried disable daughter, she has to be crippled and certified by the approved medical authority that she carries a disability that make her incapable of earning her own living. I think the  Government should be aware that it is the families largely who have to take care of their children with disabilities with the Government despite it may be their intention unable to do much. I think that these experiences related to the plight of disable will be taken into consideration, if ever Government thinks of amending the Act to fulfill its intent.   

17. The National Policy envisage that Chief Commissioner for persons with disabilities at the centre and State Commissioner in states will play key role in the implementation of the Policy, apart from their statutory duties.  As per Sec. 63(1) of the Act, the Chief Commissioner for discharging their function under the Act, have the same powers as vested in a court under Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 while trying a suit in matters like summoning and enforcing the attendance of witnesses; requiring discovery and production of documents; requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office; receiving evidence on affidavits; and issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses and documents. Its proceedings are judicial, within the meaning of Sec.193 and 228 in the the Indian Penal Code. It is deemed as Civil Court for the purpose of Section 195 and Chapter XXXVI of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. My experience with the Chief Commissioner,   as narrated in foregoing paragraphs show inadequacy of this office.  If they have to play a key role these offices need to be adequately strengthened, given appropriate authority, manned with committed and competent officers, made accountable for their jobs.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Disabled and Driving - Can both exist together or at the cost of each other?

Dear Friends,

I have been perturbed at the increasing evidences coming to light where people with disabilities are discriminated and not treated fairly on equal basis with others when it comes to licenses to using roads, pedestrian infrastructure, drive and registration of adapted vehicles. The moment the subject is touched, it is looked at as if the disabled is a security threat to others and can't just drive! The RTOs often behave in most irrational ways.

I wonder at times, whether disabled and driving a vehicle has any co-relation! Can both co-exist peacefully or at the cost of each other? From a disabled person's point of view and also from a human rights angle, they can co-exist as the ability to safely drive can not be judged at the fancies of few others who merely presume and are not aware of the abilities hidden!

In my opinion, it is not only the attitude of society that disables and reduces an equal participation of a person with disability but also our laws have loopholes and limitations which perpetrate this discrimination. For example central Motor Vehicles Act 1988 which seems to be a newer law compared to many other laws in India, but has made life difficult for those persons with disabilities who can & want to drive their vehicles/adapted vehicles. This law also makes no provisions to support disability access related requirements at street crossings and intersections so that every person with disability, children, elderly, sick people, women, those carrying luggage could use the roads with safety and ease.

(a) Provisions of Access at pedestrian pavements, crossings and Traffic Signals

The Motor Vehicles Act seeks to consolidate and amend the law relating to motor vehicles in India. Section 116 of the Motor Vehicles Act provides for power to the State government to erect traffic signs in any public place for regulating speed limits, prohibitions or restrictions and for the purpose of regulating motor vehicle traffic. However, it makes no provisions for auditory signals or tactile marking at Zebra Crossings.

In order to enable blind or deaf persons to be warned about oncoming vehicles at zebra-crossings while crossing road, it is necessary that while fixing traffic signs at public places as also at zebra crossings, the Government/Public authorities also provide auditory signals and markings at zebra crossings for the benefit of persons with disabilities. Secondly, the pedestrian pavements along side the road are often absent and sometimes if present are not leveled for easy access to wheel chair users.

These lacunae in the Motor Vehicles Act can be easily plugged by adding following Proviso to Sub-section (1) (a) of section 116 of this Act.

“Provided that the State government or any local authority authorized in this behalf shall erect traffic signs, install auditory signals at red lights in the public roads, curb cuts and slopes in pavements so as to provide inclusive, un-interrupted continuous pedestrian and road infrastructure , for effective participation of persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.”

(b) Can the Deaf legally drive in India? : Provisions Related to driving licenses to persons with hearing impairment.

The Indian Motor Vehicle Act didn’t permit the persons with hearing impairment to be issued with driving license hence despite being capable to drive personal vehicles; they remained legally ineligible to drive in India for a long time until the Delhi High Court in its judgement in Feb 2011 turned it in favor of deaf people. [blog updated on 27 June 2017]. World over, in many countries the hearing impaired people are permitted to drive and hold licenses, however this discrimination had somehow continued for  a long time in India in absence of any concerted effort from the deaf users or from the state. This is just a beginning and much needs to be done to take this awareness to the RTOs in whole of India so that there are no problems on the ground in implementing it.

(c) Driving licenses to persons with orthopedic disabilities.

The guidelines related to issuance of driving license to persons with orthopedic disabilities are also discriminatory and needs amendments to make them rights based. In my opinion the word “Invalid Carriage” is derogatory and improper and should be changed to “Motor Cycle with/without Gear (Adapted/Altered Vehicle driven by a person with disability)”. The driving license given to Persons with Orthopedic disabilities should be universal like it is for every one else rather than limited & specific to a vehicle number.

(d) Registration of adapted motor vehicles driven by persons with orthopedic disabilities.

An adapted /altered Scooters or an adapted Car with suitable modification like hand brakes and gears provides an easy mobility to a user with orthopedic disabilities.

People with orthopedic disabilities (especially those with Post Polio Residual Paralysis and those with spinal injuries) often prefer a scooter with side-wheels which is an economic mode of transport. Since almost no major company produces such scooters (called an invalid carriage!!!) in India, people with disabilities have to get the fabrication done through local mechanics and fabricators etc. However registering such vehicles and driving license to drive such (invalid carriage) is an uphill task as the rules and law do not specifically provide for this and leaves room for subjectivity and corrupt practices and it leads to exploitation of a user with disabilities at the hands of middlemen and RTOs.

Such an adapted vehicle is registered as ‘Invalid Carriage’ at the whims and fancies of the RTO. To harass the disabled applicants, the RTO often ask the user to produce a sale letter (form 21) of the Invalid Carriage. Now, since no automobile manufacturer in India supply company-fitted scooter with side wheels or produces an invalid carriage, such a sale letter can not be produced. Here starts the harassment to the user and malpractices in absence of laws due to subjectivity available with the RTOs.

Even when the carriage is registered, the user is given a driving license denoting the vehicle number on the license meaning that the user can not drive any other similar vehicle in case the vehicle goes out of order. This necessitates seeking a new driving license each time with a new vehicle (even if the vehicle is similar),

As per the Rule 126 made under Section 52 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (as amended in 2002) the prototypes of all vehicles including the one for the disabled should be approved by the Pune-based Automobile Research Association of India, otherwise no modifications on any vehicle can be permitted and one has to use a vehicle in the same shape and design as supplied by the manufacturing company. This puts an undue restriction on the persons with disabilities and takes away from them their right to free mobility.

Similar is the case for adapted Cars. Previously, Maruti Udyog Ltd. used to manufacture special type vehicles for handicapped persons with suitable modifications/ attachments. As the requirement of different persons with different disability varies, the modifications/attachments also have to be different. Since the prototype of each model has to undergo the test, under Rule 126 of CMV Rules, the manufacturer has stopped production of such vehicles. Hence it is desirable to allow modifications/alterations of vehicles enabling the handicapped to drive their own vehicles.

Mr. Jagdish Motwani’s Case

I have two specific instances of past. One Mr. Jagdish Motwani from Mumbai faced similar situations and wrote to the Pune-based Automobile Research Association of India, and received the following clarification in Nov 2006:

1. Currently there is no specified / notified procedure for the testing and certification of such systems in our country as a retro-fitment on existing vehicles.
2. The vehicles fitted with such systems have to be verified and certified by the Regional Transport Authorities as an “Invalid carriage”.
3. The suitability of the modified vehicle for the person with a particular disability for purposes of safe driving has to be examined by a medical practitioner and certified so, with respect to the nature and type of disability.
4. The Regional authorities would verify the report of the medical practitioner and also ensure that the physically challenged person is able to drive the vehicle safely.

Ms. Sudha Girish Tendulkar’s Case

Recently another case of Ms. Sudha Girish Tendulkar has come to light. She had been using an Activa adapted scooter for past 15 years and wanted to move on to an adapted car. She even bought the car with her hard earned money and a raised loan and got it adapted/modified to her needs in terms of law with due permission from the RTO. However, the RTO has been refusing to register the vehicle and not issuing her a licence to drive. In fact the wise(?) RTO want to see the driving licence before registering the vehicle in her name and Ms. Sudha’s case is that unless the vehicle is registered and a learner’s licence is issued to her how can she learn driving the car?

Here the detailed news report on her plight:

Mumbai: For 38 years, Kandivli resident Sudha Girish Tendulkar did not let her polio come in the way of life. She’s not about to give up the fight now, either.

Tendulkar needs crutches to walk, but she learnt to ride a scooter when she was 23. The HR executive, who works for Goregaon-based Excel Cropcare Ltd, has been travelling to work on her Activa for 15 years, but now wants to learn to drive a four-wheeler. She applied for a vehicle loan, purchased an Alto and even got it modified to make it disabled-friendly with the sanction of the Regional Transport Office (RTO).

But while Tendulkar and the car have been road-ready for six months, the physically challenged woman is still waiting for the car to be registered. Despite repeated requests and several visits to the RTO, her papers are yet to be processed, she claims.

What’s more, Tendulkar alleges that the Andheri RTO officials have now asked her to appear for a driving test before they sign the papers.

“How can I appear for a driving test when I don’t even know how to drive the car? They need to register it first, and then grant me a learner’s licence. Only then can I learn driving, and thereafter appear for the test,” she said.

For 15 years, Tendulkar travelled 12km to her workplace on the Activa, which had a side-car to provide balance. “Since it can be controlled with hands, I could ride it with ease,” Tendulkar said. But she met with an accident and dislocated her right shoulder two years ago. After she recovered, her doctor advised her to use a four-wheeler as it would be safer.

Accordingly, Tendulkar applied for a vehicle loan and bought an Alto on August 10, 2009 for Rs2,85,000. “I also spent an additional Rs34,000 to modify it. The brakes, accelerator as well as the clutch can be controlled with hands, as opposed to a normal car,” she said. “All this was done with the RTO’s permission. The officials even checked the car after the modification and submitted a report on October 14, 2009. But I am yet to get the registration done.”

“Tendulkar has been working here for 17 years and has never given us any reason to complain,” said NK Amin, vice president, HR, Excel Cropcare Ltd.

Amin said “we are a disabled-friendly company”, which employs two other physically-challenged persons in the Mumbai office.

Transport commissioner Deepak Kapoor said that he was aware of the matter and would see to it that action was taken by Monday.

“Since she is physically challenged, she wanted certain special permissions for the license and registration, which can be granted only by the government of India. We wrote to the government two months ago, and as a special case, I directed the Andheri RTO officials to assist her immediately,” said Kapoor.

However, the government raised some technical queries such as the nature of disability, her ability to drive, how the car will be driven, how the car has been modified, etc. This happened soon after the Nagpur assembly session started, said Kapoor, admitting that there had been a delay in preparing the answers.

“Nevertheless, last Saturday, I assured the lady that her case would be dealt with on a priority basis, and by Monday, all required documents will be checked and sent to the government,” said Kapoor.


Such lacunae can be removed by supplementing Section 52 of MV Act as below:

Present provision: “no owner of a motor vehicle shall so alter the vehicle that the particulars contained in the certificate of registration are at variance with those originally specified by the manufacturer”.

Suggested Addition: “Provided that persons with disabilities shall be allowed to alter their vehicles so as to drive themselves at authorized workshops/centres and such vehicles shall be registered by the RTO after inspection and on the basis of fitness certificate issued by such authorized workshop/centre/ manufacturer.”

Few other points should be observed in order to end the discrimination against disabled on the above issues:

a) Register the vehicle made by companies as Motor Cycle with or Without Gear and not as an Invalid Carriage.
b) Empower the concerned RTOs/authorized workshops/centres to test and approve a modified scooter owned and used solely by a physically challenged person and amend the rule 126 of Central Motor Vehicle Rules 1989 accordingly.
c) Further exempt all the private vehicles driven by persons with disability from the Road Tax. Though this provision exists, but is not commonly known among the users with disabilities.
d) Registration and issuing driving licences should be within a time bound manner and any delay on the part of RTO to be viewed seriously and strictly dealt with. Lapses would amount to deficiency in service and hence user be entitled to compensation.
warm regards
Subhash Chandra Vashishth
Advocate-Disability Rights

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Want to become Judge? An ideal opportunity for VH law graduates in Delhi

Dear friends,

The Delhi High Court will hold Delhi Judicial Service Examination to fill at least 60 posts of Lower Judiciary in Delhi soon. I have been constantly calling upon the Visually Impaired Candidates to come forward in large number and appear for this august examination to make at least some beginning. Why I say so is because, there are five posts reserved for the Candidates with Low Vision/Blind and out of these only one has been advertised for first time, the remaining four vacancies are carried forward vacancies. You will be amazed to know that one carried forward vacancy has been advertised for fifth time, 01 for third time and 02 for second time!!

This indicates that either the information is not reaching out to the blind candidates or they are not keen on it or they are not geared up/prepared for it or there are no eligible VH candidates available!! I am sure the latter one is not true for the data of students passing out from Law Colleges indicates a good number of VH students passing out successfully. Then where they are going? I am writing it here so that I am able to circulate this information to the largest network possible and assist them in preparation for the same.

I have been told by many prospective candidates that they need some training and coaching for this which is not available in their near vicinity. The Govt. or the Delhi High Court has not made any such arrangement so far to make some special efforts to fill these vacancies by way of counselling, coaching and training. A few professional institutes that exists are not geared up to handle the needs of the VH. Non-availability of study material in alternate formats and modern technology/gadgets are other stumbling blocks.

I had written an article some time back on what all it takes for a blind to become a Judge or hold a position in Judiciary here on this blog and I received many positive comments that it was not only able to sensitize many outsiders but also insiders of the Disability Sector and particular the Visually Impaired brethren. And they promised that they would surely be looking forward to the next advertisement for the recruitment.

How to apply for Delhi Judicial Service Examination 2010?

(a) Qualifications and Age: , Indian Citizen, Law Graduate from recognised university, practicing as an advocate or qualified for enrolment as an Advocate under Advocates Act, Not more than 30 years of age as on 01 January 2011. (Age relaxation applicable for SC/ST/Ex-servicemen/ Disabled as per rules) (Though advertisement doesn't say about age relaxation to disabled but it can be presumed in light of DOPT memorandum dated 29.12.2005 regarding the same (Click for Hindi version of memo)

(b) Now if you qualify in the above criteria, go and fetch the Application Form and DJS Registration form both by paying Rs. 100 (for Disabled, SC/ST) and Rs. 600/ (for General Candidates) on any working day between 03.11.2009 - 30.11.2009 (10.30 AM to 01.00 PM and 02 PM to 4 PM) from Filing Counter of Delhi High Court. Those who can't go, can ask for it by post also (refer to detailed advertisement)

(c) Important Dates : Submit the filled application in person (By hand) at Filing Counter till 4 PM on 01.12.2009 or by Registered Post Ack Due so as to reach not later than 4 PM on 01.12.2009.

Hoping to see many Blind/ Low Vision candidates competing and getting appointed this time!

Subhash Chandra Vashishth
Advocate, Disability Rights

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A petition for mercy dealth for 4 disabled sons brings some support from Ac

Dear Friends,

A very meaningful discussion that happened on this news item "Parents want mercy killing for 4 disabled sons" has finally brought much needed support from the IAMD, thanks to Sanjana Goyal and her friends. I totally agree that there should be a national data base not only of those with muscular dystrophy but all those who are citizens of this country and in particular those with disabilities and in difficult circumstances.

The government may have ample of money and resources, but unless the data base exists its is difficult to plant any intervention and support. Similarly many NGOs and kind hearted citizens want to reach out but it is so difficult to help in absence of systems. Also how many cases can media pick up?

I am happy that on this count Mr. Nandan Nilekani has begun his work on his Unique ID Card Number system which will give identification to each Indian. This would be a boon to those with disabilities as proper mapping, planning will be feasible once this comes through. However this doesn't stop NGOs in the field to continue gathering data on their relevant areas which can further supplement the efforts of the Govt.

Financial help in this case could have brought some relief but ultimate need was to counsel the family, extend a quality of life and arrest the further degeneration as far as possible in the little kids by way of physiotherapy, simple lung exercises like filling air in balloon, blowing candles and the likes. And yes, a balanced diet is of much importance here for the young children.

Appended below is the news followed by comments that followed as part of discussions for the ready reference of readers. Hope the civil society continues its vibrancy this way and reaches out to those in need But somewhere Govt. also needs to be accountable in this process as I don't see even a single response from those who are Govt. offices in Disability Sector like CCPD, MSJE and others who remained passive recipients of the whole discussion.


SC Vashishth, Advocate -Disability Rights

Clik here To read from source

Parents want mercy killing for 4 disabled sons

IANS 11 August 2009, 01:42 pm IST

LUCKNOW: A farmer and his wife in Uttar Pradesh have sought President Pratibha Patil's permission for the mercy killing of all their four sons whohave turned into virtual vegetables. The four, aged 10 to 16 years, have been afflicted by muscular dystrophy, a genetic disease that has confined them to bed.
"My sons cannot stand on their feet. They are unable to move their body below the neck. I see their distress every day. Now when doctors too have lost hope, I want they should die. Death would be the ultimate solution for their suffering," farmer Jeet Narayan of Bashi village of Mirzapur district, some 300 km from Lucknow, has said in his letter to Patil.

"My sons are in utter discomfort. I cannot see their helplessness any more. So, we have written to the president that our sons be killed through euthanasia," Narayan's wife Prabhavati said over telephone.
Narayan has told his neighbours that he has sold of all his valuables to meet the medical expenses of his sons."Our financial resources have been exhausted. I even sold off the parental land. Moreover, I owe nearly Rs 2 lakh to moneylenders," he said.

Prabhavati said muscular dystrophy afflicted her sons when they were five years old. She identified them as Durgesh, 16, Sarvesh, 14, Brijesh, 11, and Suresh, 10. All four were normal children until then.
The couple now fears their four-year-old daughter may become disabled when she turns five. "Till now our daughter is doing fine but we are quite worried about her. She might meet the same fate like her brothers after a year or so," said Prabhavati.


Shri Subramani L (
At least they have a responsibility to explain to them what they are planning to do. I am sure there would be ways of making them live a better life, but if the parents feel defeated then there is little or no choice, unless perhaps someone personally willing to bankroll theirrebah or treatment.

Vamshi G ( )

I don't support Euthanisia at any stage. We know many cases wheremore than one child in the family is disabled and still they becomeachievers, for which there is more than one example on our listitself. We have even seen persons with multiple disabilities achievegreat heights of success. So, they should carry on their lives with apositive attitude awaiting for some miracle to happen, which is easiersaid than done.
I personally interpret the factors which would have prompted theparents to take such a decission in a different way. -- consideringthe attitude of the Indian governments towards the disabled persons inour country, the parents would have been frightened about the lives oftheir children in a country like ours.
As far as the president's decission is concerned, I feel she shouldthrow the decission about Euthanasia out of the window and think inlines of what the government should do for a family like this,assuring good medical facilities, education and financial assistancefor any productive purpose the family undertakes for it's survival.The steps taken should be in such a manner that no disabled person inIndia should ever even think in lines of Euthanasia again.
I know most of you would burst into laughter reading my suggestions asto what our caring and concerned governments should do for thisfamily. They are so busy taking care of the members who support themto sustain power till the nest elections.
To quote a small example, the H R A of the members of Andhra Pradeshassembly has been raised by just 200% recently and the additionalconveyance allowance paid to disabled bankers is a mighty sum of 400per month.Oh god! how much tax should I have to pay this year as a result ofthis conveyance allowance?

Geetha Shamanna (

Hi Vamshi,
Muscular distrophy is not just a disability, it is a terminal anddegenerative condition which gradually deteriorates until the patientfinally dies. People with this condition suffer a great deal as it worsens.It can in no way be compared with blindness, deafness or other suchdisabilities. While considering euthenasia in case of normal disabilitiesshould be categorized as outright criminal, terminally ill patients shouldbe given the right to decide about their own lives and should be allowed todie if they wish to. Suffering through such conditions is pointless if thereis no hope in sight.

SC Vashishth, Advocate-Disability Rights ( )

Dear Friends,

We all know MD is a degenerative condition and gradually the muscle fibres gets replaced by fatty tissues with no muscular strength left. Its starts from limbs and gradually moves on the central body organs. The mental faculties remain intact in MD has not been related to mental retardation etc. Its only a genetic conditions and often girls are silent carriers of the condition and boys get affected more.However, with regular exercise and balanced diet life span increases and with support systems it can be sustained for many years. We have live examples like Mr. Sanjeev Sachdeva who is a person with MD and has been serving as Class I gazetted officer in Indian Parliament. I have seen him for past several years, his zeal to social work and community support has further enhanced and strengthened despite the degenerative condition. He is currently the director, Sanjeevani - an NGO and working for national trust in running "Sahyogi Scheme of national Trust." There is also a Muscular Dystrophy Association in India.

I feel that Govt. should provide support structures to this family and may be either support the family with requisite supplements or alternatively with consent of parents and the children have these children in the state run institution if the parents are unable to look after and meet their needs. There is a larger need of social security for such children with disabilities and all persons with disabilities in distress and in need of support. Its ignorance and lack of support that parents are seeking mercy death. No parent would like to see his/her child be killed, even if the child is disabled. Its only apathy of society, Govt. and lack of support system that people are forced to think that way. Also should what right we have to take away a life if we can't give a life to some one. The incidence is an open slap to the social justice department of the state who have consistently ignored this family.

Deepak Singla (

Dear friends
As someone said there are people who r suffering from these problemsare still hopeful and living with full zeal, there is no doubt in thatfact. I am a visually handicapped and one of my brothers is alsovisually handicapped. In my family, i.e. maternal side, there are manymembers who r suffering from MD. It is difficult to live with such aproblem but they are still giving tough fight to the challenges. Iwould like to say on this topic that our Hon'ble President should givea kind consideration to the request of the parents and should extendhelp from the Government side so that the children could get properhealthcare facilities along with education.

Sanjeev Sachdeva ( ), Director -Sanjeevani

Dear All,

I have been thinking since morning how to react and respond. Subhash thanks for your kind words about me. Unfortunately or fortunately i am one of the very few again very few privileged persons with economic independence but some issues boggle my mind. This kind of mercy killing request by parents having children with Duchenne MD is not new to me. In the past 3-4 years many such instances have come up. People like me and all well wishers should accept some sort of responsibility. We have not done anything concrete except lip sympathy. These instances "awaken our souls while someone somewhere silently suffers and awaits death" No one invites Disability, No one would prefer to be born with or afficlited with any ailment or disease at any point of time. Infact we as Persons with Disabilities we accept whatever has come in our life. It is the family- mainly parents who suffer the most awaiting miracle to happen. No monetary support or compensation can suffice for the pain, trauma and uncertainity about their children or adult, after their death. Live Role Models with MD like Anjali, Sanjana, Virendra, Ankur, Raja (Rajasthan) need to think on Social Safety Network. Why MD is not included under Multiple Disabilities under the National Trust. Think and take action. Life is a beautiful gift of God.... lets live it to the fullest come what may (Shayad Kehna Aasan Hai )Can't say more than that.

Ms. Sanjana Goyal, Indian Assn.of Muscular Dystrophy, Hospital Road, Solan , H.P.,

Dear All,

I strongly condemn Geetha, and am thankful to rest all who have taken out little time to give their comments on this issue.Your comments will go a long way to bring a support system for such Sanjeev says rightly that this not the first time it's happening in our country. The only thing I would like to say here is, we should have a support system for families where ever there are persons affected with muscular dystrophy. Had there been a support system /awareness in the country ,the children would not have reached this condition. We as a very small group cannot reach each and every person affected with this cruel disease.And of course Government not only in Uttar Pradesh but in the whole Nation should take THIS CAUSE seriously. I assure you all that by tomorrow we will be in touch with the family and not let our children die like that. SAD PART IS THAT THE CHILDREN HAVE REACHED THIS CONDITION WHERE THEIR SUFFERING HAS INCREASED SO MUCH.--

Subhash Chandra Vashishth (

Dear Sanjana,

I laud the efforts of the Muscular Dystrophy association in coming to aid and sensitizing society about this condition. However, lets us no condemn Geetha or the parents or any body else who might have favoured mercy death looking at the pain and suffering for every one has a right to express their views and concern based on their experience. The right way would to be to put up a right picture of a rights based society before such people. I am sure No parent or socially awakened people like Geetha would ever think of allowing the children die had the social support structures were little better. Lets join this cause in supporting this family though innumerous ways - writing to all concerned and finding an organisation who can get in direct contact with the family. Thanks Sanjeev for your considered views. Can something be done on behalf of Sahyogi and National Trust. I agree the condiiton MD per se is not covered under National Trust Act, but when you have such degenerative physical disability requiring physical support for day to day care- it is deemed to be a multiple disability and thus covered under NT Act.

Sanjeev Sachdeva (

Need of the hour and concentration shall be on support services. Sahyogi Scheme might offer little respite to family. Sanjana's and IAMD and Goyal's contribution in bringing MD into the National scene is beyond imagination. Hats off you initiate, i follow

Divvya Bajpai, Public Policy and Management GroupIndian Institute of Management, Calcutta,

This email is a series of communication about the request by parents of 4 children aged 10 to 16 who are leading a vegetable life as they are in the last stage of Muscular Dystrophy. This intro is for those of you who i have included in the reply in Bcc. If you would be spending some time toread the email, your views or reply to me are welcome. My apologies to anyone who would not have preferred to get this email.

I would not condemn Geetha. She has a valid argument about what might be in the best interests of a terminally ill patient. There is a fear and disdain of death that might lead us to reject euthanasia when a patient who is in terminal stage of Muscular Dystrophy is in deep suffering. I believe in afterlife and rebirth so it does not bother me if i were to die today itself!

If these children can be helped with support of various kinds and can lead a life like my mother (almost 20 yrs of gradual decline), uncle do where they are able to a look after themselves to whatever extent as they remain confined to bedthat is the way to go, of course. Can't really comment unless i knew the graveness of their condition. from the mails below, the parts in different colours are dreams that we have of future and towards which we should work/walk consistently! To mobilise, support each other!

People get motivated by various things in life. For e.g. i got motivated to move towards public policy to work further on these issues that includes concerns of those inflicted by mental and physical challenges/illnesses/disabilities, and the families or others who support them. Happy to get to know today of other people besides Sanjana who are inspiring. for myself, if this is what life has to hold for me, i will live graciously, work, raise awareness, create support systems if i was afflicted by a serious degenerative illness (God forbid it, of course!) and would prefer to be granted euthanasia if i turn into a vegetable and had to be made to survive somehow for a year or more.

Mr. Yogesh Sharma

Dear All, No parents will ever opt for that but what do they do when there is no hope. We lack the support systems in metros, how do parents take care of four sons and that too in some remote area. I feel the most important thing is to know that are we or any other organisation is really equipped to reach this family and able to extend them some support.

Manish Sawhney,

Dear Divvya ji, Your views and encouragement about supporting each other are most welcome and appreciate your positivity towards life and its challenges. Life is not easy for anybody and it all depends on each person how he takes each challenge and difficulty ... i know it is easier to talk for person like me who is not directly suffering.. but a lot depends on our own will and our thoughts ... We have another live example of a disabled person - Mr. Rajender Johar in Delhi who has been confined to bed since many years. However just with his sheer will, he is today running a full organisation called "Family of Disabled". Due to his spinal injury he cannot get up and is dependent on his care taker, but he has helped so many disabled people to earn their living and live respectfully. Death is inevitable but we are not born to decide when to die and how to die. We have taken birth to live, as best as possible.Today if we start advocating the suicide or a mercy killing, then who will decide how much suffering is enough to exercise that option ?.. is a BIG question. With all due respect for the sufferings of families with multiple MD affected children, Losing the battle without fighting it is not an option and it will only encourage the pessimistic scenarios of losing our individual battles against MD rather than finding and working towards its solutions. For the situations like subject case of 4 sons with MD, we should strengthen the cause that our friends - Mr.Sanjeev, Ms. Sanjana, Ms. Anjlee and others are taking up with the Govt. i.e. the right to have an attendant per patient and the adequate care facility for MD patients. But nothing would happen unless we all unite and organise ourselves. And a major obstacle is that may be we need to create a centralised database with the collective support of these organisations & individuals , that can be taken to the govt. to show about the extent of the problem. Let's join hands and take this cause further. Let us strengthen the existing support groups and create more wherever required. warm regards,

Sanjana Goyal,

Dear all, we are in touch with the effected family. Mr. Jeet Narayan says that he has to pay more than lac to a bank. Earlier he was the owner of a tent house,which is now ruined due to non payment and huge bank liabilities. Now his mother doesn't want mercy killing any more. In fact they thought that no one in the world suffers the way they are suffering. the media people are saying that , the 'effort' has become fruitful. 

We will be in touch with the Commissioner Mirzapur by tomorrow. We shall try to generate as much as fund as we can to provide him interim relief . Right now money will bring some relief to the affected family. We should try to see that his previous business "tent house'is on line again. This family has one normal daughter and a normal son for whom we need to create an environment so that they become an instrument to up bring the affected family. Genetic testing for the girl will be provided by IAMD. VOLUNTEER FOR THE CAUSE

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Finally Railways plan to address access issues at select 1500 railway stations!

Indian Railways have been sitting over the access improvement plans over 10 years now. Several Writ petitions followed, but nothing more than assurances and promises came out. The Indian Railways have now decided to address access issues at some odd 1500 stations now which is nothing but a miniscule in such a vast country.

My Fears

  • And mind you, they say that they are doing it not because it is mandated under a binding Central Law called The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 but because of the continuous requests which are being received from the physically challenged people from all over India. What a cruel joke on the 14 year old Legislative Enactment of Indian Parliament!

  • If Railways execute the access solutions at the standards at which they are currently doing at many of the stations, I fear whether we will ever have accessibility at Indian Railway Stations and trains !

  • As long as you call alternate access ramps, reserved parking slots, low height water taps and accessible toilets to be special facilities, I doubt it would be sustainable! Answer lies in Universal Design! Why can't the stations be designed to be accessible to all based on universal design rather than special access to some.

  • Today, in the name of low height water taps, inaccessible taps have been built. Look at the socalled "accessible toilets" at stations. They remain either locked or are inaccessible. Ramps are slippery, there is no platform to platform connectivity. Wheelchairs are not available easilty at stations. Staff is often missing from "May I help you" counters. There is no awarness in the implementing contractors and engineers. What they consider accessible is actually not accessible.

Perceptions about Accessibility Differ from Actual Accessibility

The simple question- do you involve competent consultants and users to ensure that the end product is fault free? Perceptions of accessibility differ from person to person and this subjectivity kills the design and the usage of end product for the end user in absence of uniform universal design standards being adopted.


Subhash C. Vashishth

To read the news in detail click on links:

Times of India
Travel Biz Monitor

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Making The Election Process Accessible to all - an out of box rethinking is necessary

Dear Friends,

Here is my article on making the election process in India accessible to all that I wrote today:

India has recently voted in an unprecedented election wherein Indian National Congress emerged as the strongest and the single largest party though with not a clear majority. The overall voting percentage that is being put forward is 50%. I am amazed that despite India being the IT giant, with resources in hand why do we still have to follow the means of the bye gone era where voters lined up for several hours to cast their vote!! I learnt that within my close circle so many couldn't vote. Few travelling, few had official trips & one couple was so old that they couldn't venture out of the house at all. I also learnt from my interaction that all those on poll duty are not able to vote – this includes sizable chunk of teachers and government employees and security forces put on election duty. Their right to vote is denied.

Access at Booths for voters with Disability
On the top of it, our friends in the Disability Sector too, without thinking out of box, campaigned & pressurized and advocated the Election Commission of India to make all the voter booths accessible to voters with disabilities based on a Supreme Court Verdict. That included providing EVMs with braille and ramps to access booths.

The feedback is mixed. At many places especially in rural India, no access was provided in terms of Ramps or braille enabled EVMs while at some places where it was provided, the blind voters did not know the braille!!!!

I am not negating the work, lobbying & successes that we as a sector achieved during this. But to bring home the larger question- Are we giving sufficient choices to our electorate - disabled or not?

Is that the only solution?
Will it suffice and make it accessible to all if we just focused on booths and EVMs in the name of equal rights for the voters with reduced mobility (I include elderly, disabled & those with fractured leg or back, sick and those not able to move out due to any pre-occupation or condition in the definition of reduced mobility) ?

The fact remains that 50% of India couldn't vote. I would say “could not” and not “did not” because the election system is still not friendly to people. I can not vote with comfort still, leave aside those experiencing disability, sickness, busy work schedules or simply have other personal priorities.

Some Solutions
I was just looking at how a multinational bank services its customers. There will always be few who prefer to visit bank and do the transactions – may be due to any reason like illiteracy, bank is closer, not very IT friendly etc. While there are others who use ATMs, Internet Banking for all their transactions, few pay their installments by EMIs and give instructions for payment of utility bills few who give bearers cheques!

To me, this throws ample of examples how voting system could have more choices to facilitate the voting system for the diversity of citizenry. While voting at accessible Booths should continue, more options like email, SMS, (on the lines of phone banking and internet banking), postal ballots should be given to citizens to choose from so that no one is denied his right to vote as a citizen.

For those few who are not able to step out of the houses due to old age or severe disabilities or sickness and yet not friendly with the modern means could be offered choices like the vehicle mounted EVMs (taking clue from mobile ATM Machines) and the same could even go to houses (on the lines of door to door Polio campaign). The voting process can be a week long for those opting email & SMSs and one day for those who physically vote on election booths. It is all the more possible when we have the citizen’s data base on Election Commission’s website, Photo ID cards have been issued and any body can check his data on the internet. Only thing we need to do is relate one email per person for those who are internet savvy. These are just few ideas thrown and I am sure many new could be though out.

Way Ahead
Also, firstly each Indian Citizen entitled to vote should be counted and identified - placing faces to the numbers - with proper identity proofs (biometrics, face recognition, eye recognition software could be used for data base. This would necessarily include identifying voters with disabilities to bring them in to the mainstream. Access to all including those experiencing disability should be an inbuilt feature in all such options.

If we have to become a strong democracy, India has to make enabling provisions that every one irrespective of the situations they are in - busy, out for work, out for wedding, sick at home, caring loved ones in the hospitals, posted at borders as a combatant in forces, experiencing reduced mobility or a disabling condition should be able to vote with equal comforts and with ample choices. I am hopeful that if implemented such ideas could generate 90% turn-out during poll process, for we are a vibrant democracy with maximum young people in the world!

Subhash Chandra Vashishth
Advocate-Disability Rights

Friday, April 10, 2009

Election Commission clarifies - Grant can't be stopped in the name of Model Code of Conduct

Dear Friends,

This is in response to my earlier post on "Should Rehabilitation Services come to stand still when Model Code of Conduct is in force ?"

I have been informed by Sh. JL Kaul, Secretary General AICB that our communication and the resonance that your efforts created did work very well!

Election Commission of India has directed the Government of India, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to release grant to NGOs before 31st March and work has already been started.

Mr. Kaul has expressed thanks to all organisations who supported the petition/appeal and also wrote to the Commission directly.

Who says, the reason and strong advoacy doesn't work in India?

Congratulations to the sector and thanks to the Election Commission for their quick and timely resonse.

Warm regards,

Subhash Chandra Vashishth
Mobile: +91 (11) 9811125521