Showing posts with label discrimination. Show all posts
Showing posts with label discrimination. Show all posts

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Special School for Mentally Retarded charged Commercial rates for electricity supply by BSES

Dear Friends,

We have seen a paradigm shift in the recent years especially in the way issues related to persons with disabilities are looked at. Call it a result of an awareness in the world about  disability or a very active disability community in India but we see that things are changing and many positive initiatives are in pipeline.

However, as an activist, I feel  the whole focus of disability community and hence the government is more in to laws specific to disabilities such as the Disabilities Act or the National Trust Act or the Rehabilitation Council of India Act or Mental Health Act etc.  It is an irony that several codes, enactments, rules not directly dealing with disabilities continue to use unacceptable and undignified terminologies to refer to persosn with disabilities and also discriminate against certain disabilities.

One such example that has come to my notice recently is the Supply Code and Performance Standards Regulations, 2007 (hereinafter referred to as “the Regulation”)  issued by the Electricity Regulatory Commission, in exercise of the powers conferred on it by section 50 of the Electricity Act 2003, read with sections 57, 86 and 181 of the said Act.

The Regulation in Chapter II, Para 4 a (vii) provides domestic connections to organisations working for the welfare and education of persons with disabilities. However it uses very undignified and archaic language as below:

Extract of DERC Supply Code and Performance Standards Regulations, 2007 
(to read the full Regulation please click here: SC and PS Regulations 2007)

“4. Classification of Supply  The Voltage of Supply and number of  phases shall be determined by the Licensee depending on the Contract  Demand / Sanctioned Load of the  Consumer. 

(i)Domestic Connection

a. Connections under this category are provided for consumers as specified below:
(i) Residential consumers
(ii) Hostels of recognized/aided  institutions of Municipal Corporation of Delhi or Govt. of the NCT of Delhi.
(iii) Staircase lighting in residential flats separately metered
(iv) Compound lighting, lifts and water pumps etc., for drinking  water supply and fire fighting equipment in residential  complexes.
(v) Dispensary/Hospitals/Public Libraries/School/Working Women’s  Hostel/ Orphanage/ Charitable homes run by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi or the Government of the NCT of Delhi.
(vi) Small Health Centers approved by the Department of Health, Government of NCT of Delhi for  providing Charitable Services only.
(vii) Recognized Centers for welfare of blind, deaf and dumb,  spastic children, physically handicapped persons as approved  by the Government of NCT of Delhi.
(viii) Places of worship.
(ix) Cheshire homes/orphanage.
(x) Electric crematoriums”

The said erroneous construction clearly uses undignified language and while doing so also misses  certain disabilities such Mental Retardation, Mental Illness, Low Vision, Leprosy cured, Children with Multiple Disabilities, Children with Autism and several such disabilities which have been included in The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 and The National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation & Multiple Disabilities Act 1999.

Such a regulation is susceptible to subjective interpretation and this is proving to be true in case of Delhi based organisation, Sahan Centre for Special Education (Mental Retardation) run by Federation for the Welfare of the Mentally Retarded (India).  Federation receives grant-in-aid from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment,Govt of India.

Now the officials of the Electric companies i.e. BSES are refusing to grant the Electricity supply under domestic category to those institution/schools/NGOs who are working with children with mental retardation and infact all other disabilities  which are not indicated in the Regulations. Also they insist that the institution should be recognised by Govt of NCT of Delhi. They refuse to accept an NGO for domestic connection even if it is recognised by Govt. of India and getting grants from them!

Such a fallacious reading of the regulation is entirely illegal and illogical. The erstwhile DESU (Delhi Electricity Suppy Undertaking ) did not make such a distinction and the NGOs working with children with Mental Retardation  were also given the domestic connection as per the information received. However the BSES has started charging them the commercial rate for the electric supply.

The issue has been taken up with the DERC and Govt. of Delhi. Since the Regulation is under revision, this is high time that appropriate corrections are made in the DERC Regulation as above to inlcude all disabilities to remove subjectivities that may lead to such situations.

I hope the DERC and Govt. of NCT of Delhi would take appropriate action in this regard.


Subhash Chandra Vashishth

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Exclusionary practices continues to be forced upon those who acquired disability due to leprosy

Dear Friends,

I am startled with the news Separate residential unit to be set up for lepers, disabled, hope you too would share my concern.

The systemic apartheid meted out to the disabled especially those who acquired disability due to leprosy in the past continues even today. Its well known fact that with MDT (a new technique to treat leprosy), Leprosy is fully curable but many of our laws continue to stigmatize them and discriminate against without any medical or social basis!

Matrimonial laws still allow divorce on the ground of Leprosy. Leprosy cured are not allowed in the public places, temples etc.

They are not allowed to even contest elections or hold municipal posts in Orisa. The candidate Mr.Dhirendra Pandua had challenged the decision incurring disqualification to hold the post of Councilor and chairperson in Balasore municipality on the ground of him being a leprosy patient. The appeal went to Supreme Court who opined that a leprosy patient cannot contest a civic poll or hold the post of a Councilor or Chairperson of a municipality.

The apex court's verdict in September 2008 upheld the decisions of the Election Tribunal and the Orissa High Court that had upheld the provisions of the Orissa Municipal Act, which disqualify a leprosy patient from holding such posts.

Holding that these provisions are not discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, a Bench comprising Justices C K Thakker and D K Jain said "We do not find any infirmity or illegality in the judgement warranting interference."

The Supreme Court, though agreed that now with aggressive medication a patient may fully be cured of the disease, yet they did not want to take role of legislature and pass any order indicating existence of discrimination. They could have held the law to be against Article 14 but choose to be silent. The wisdom of Judges thought it prudent to leave it to legislature to amend the laws in light of new technology and development in science. Sad part is that Orissa legislature has not risen up to the occassion and the discriminatory law continues!

I can congratulate Maharashtra legislature who have become the first state to repeal the Leper Act of 1898 and currently all Leprosy Affected Persons can participate in election process on an equal basis with others.

However, the news of planning an exclusionary village for the leprosy cured with some visually and physically disabled persons in Maharashtra is something astonishing.

Despite advancement in the medical science and complete control over Leprosy which was considered as "Maharog" once upon a time, there has been no efforts to raise awareness in the society in general and change the laws that openly discriminate against the leprosy cured.

The Govt. of India has put programmes in place for containing the spread of leprosy and results are showing with the increased awareness, however, the recent statement of the Union Health Minister Mr. Gulam Nabi Azad doesn't inspire confidence in citizens for it indicates Govt's failure to reach out to the patients with infected form of leprosy. The data indicates reducing figures but we are yet to reach zero tolerance stage.

But this from no angle justifies continuance of discriminatory laws which are reflections of the mindsets of the society surely repugnant to human rights philosophy and equality that Indian constitution grants to each citizen of India.

Even disability was considered as a bane, a result of karmas and thus the disabled were often shunned out of society with no rights and they were often left to survive on alms. Much water has passed since then. Social model of disability seems to be replacing the Medical model and we are moving towards a rights based model of society.

However, the leprosy cured disabled continues to be discriminated even today. Even within the disability sector, they have been marginalised due to lack of awareness. I was stuck with a question posed by one gentleman with disability!, "why lepers in disabled category?" Ignorance! I said to myself and then went over explaining him, prevails! But should we allow this to continue?

We need larger sensitization and support of medical community to spread the word to shackle the age-old beliefs about leprosy.

I feel leprosy cured have failed to reap the benefits of the Persons with Disabilities Act till date, despite bring included in the definition of Disability well in 1995 itself.

This needs to change and the disability sector needs to intervene to discourage this discrimination. Can we start from ourselves?

Warm regards,

Subhash Chandra Vashishth
Advocate-Disability Rights
Mobile: +91 (11) 9811125521

Thursday, July 30, 2009

DoPT fails to give IAS post to Hearing Impaired Aspirant despite clearing the exam thrice!

Dear Friends,

We saw a similar fight by few others including Shri Ravi Kumar, a candidate with Low vision who cleared Civil Services exams almost thrice and was denied by DoPT because no post was identified for disabled! Even after court's verdict, the PMO had to intervene and issue a consolation that posts have been identified for the disabled.

However, this case of Shri Maniram reveals the inherent apathy and lackadaisical attitude of the Govt. of India to include people with disability in the mainstream despite clearing their exams and competition at their own merit - forget about reservations and relaxation of standards!!

Such incidents only indicate that MSJE and GOI have failed the disabled segment, the PWD Act and the UNCRPD that India signed with so much fanfare! When this Government would stop looking at Disability from a medical angle of percentages ? If the person can prepare and clear the exams at his own merit at 100% disability then what is the fun of insisting a 70% disability to be eligible for which he has been made to undergo a cochlear implant? Now none of the Govt. Hospital has facility to measure the degree of disability!

It may be relevant to mention here that Shri Maniram is already working satisfatorily in Rajasthan Administrative Service having proved his mantle there but DOPT and Central Civil Services seem to purposefully perpetrate discriminatory exclusion agaisnt those with disabilities.

Is this because the central bureaucracy doesn't want the disabled segment in its fold? Is it because the DoPT doesn't know about abilities inherent in the human diversity such as those with hearing disability ? The issue is of attitude and approach which is negative and unwelcoming to those experiencing disabilities and should be condemned.

Such practices should be discouraged in the strongest words possible as these perpetrate the age old practice of looking at disability from medical model. Why can't the assistive aids and devices with modern technology be used to provide reasonable accommodation to Maniram to facilitate him a better and congenial working atmosphere?

I think the Govt. doesn't seem to have understood the concept of reasonable accommodation and their ignorance is proving to be so dear to thousands of aspirants. The inaction on the part of Govt. deserves shame and the sector should stand up united against such discrimination.

This is a fit case where he should be appointed immediately with all benefits like seniority of service, back pay and other benefits besides compensation for the mental agony and harassment suffered.

DoPT should be penalised for failing to facilitate his appointment since 2005 despite clear cut rulings of Courts, Directives from PMO and stated legal position! Has the gentleman filed any case in the court of law seeking immediate appointment and compensation?

Warm regards

S C Vashishth, Adv

Click here to read the article from source: Govt deaf to Maniram's cry for justice

Rema Nagarajan, TNN, 26 July 2009, 05:31 am IST

He's deaf and has cleared the civil services exam three times — in 2005, 2006 and 2009. And yet, he continues to be cheated of his dream job — joining the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). The first time, Maniram Sharma was turned away by the department of personnel and training (DoPT) because there was no policy of accommodating a deaf candidate. The second time he cleared the exam, the policy bottleneck was sorted out. But with a rider — only candidates with less than 70% hearing disability qualify for the IAS provided they cleared the exam. Maniram, being 100% deaf, was not eligible for the service. But he didn't give up.

To improve his hearing, Maniram had a surgical cochlear implant, costing Rs 7.5 lakh. He appeared for the IAS again this year and achieved the highest score in the hearing-impaired category. But his medical examination categorized him as 70% disabled — just a shade higher than the qualifying disability level. The finding itself was strange. Of the 791 candidates selected this year, Maniram's score in the interview was among the top 50 (220/300). And he scored these marks in an interview that required direct interaction — an improbable feat if he were 70% disabled.

Previously, when Maniram had cleared the written exam and reached the interview stage, an LCD projector was used to put questions on a screen. That was in 2005 and 2006 when he was 100% deaf. ENT doctors in Delhi's RML Hospital, where he had his cochlear implant, have certified he has a 100% permanent hearing impairment, discounting the implant done by its own doctors which has now helped him hear.

The ENT doctors' board of Sawai Mansingh Hospital in Rajasthan, his home state, constituted to assess Maniram's hearing, has said that audiometry and other specific tests are required to assess hearing in a patient with a cochlear implant. And these were not available in the institute.

Dr J M Hans, former head of RML's ENT department, who conducted the surgery on Maniram says that the only way to measure the hearing of a person with cochlear implant is with an instrument called electrical BERA or "brainstem evoked response audiometry", which is not available in any government hospital. "The government ought to allow the test, which is available in the private sector, to be used by candidates," he says.

Dr Han's observation raises another question - if this instrument is not available in government hospitals, including RML, how did the doctors measure Maniram's hearing loss as over 70%?

Maniram is from Badangarhi, a remote village in Alwar district, which doesn't even have a school. He started losing his hearing at the age of five, becoming totally deaf by nine. His parents, both illiterate farm labourers, could do little to help. Yet, Maniram continued trudging to the nearest school, 5 km away and cleared class 10 standing fifth in the state board examination and cleared class 12 ranking seventh in the state board.

In his second year in college, he cleared the Rajasthan Public Service Commission (RPSC) examination to become a clerk-cum-typist. He studied and worked during his final year and topped the university in Political Science. He went on to clear the NET (National Eligibility Test). He then gave up his RPSC job and became a lecturer. Not satisfied with that, he became a Junior Research Fellow and completed his Ph.D in Political Science during which time he taught M Phil and MA students in Rajasthan University.

Having completed his Ph.D, Maniram got through the Rajasthan Administrative Service (RAS) and while in service he started trying for the civil services. Will his efforts be in vain?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Recognise "sexual orientation" as a source of discrimination-asks NLS

The high court of Delhi may have decriminalised the sex between two consenting adults of same sexes and Supreme Court of the nation also may have indicated that it is in favour of the High Court's well reasoned order, the social taboos, moral brigade & attitudes in general continue to discriminate against those with different sexual orientations than the majority.

Same is the case with people with HIV status, those cured of leprosy. Social attitudes are often difficult to change. Continuous education and acceptance by the young brigade is the only solution. We see that people with different sexual orientation face discrimination at workplace too though their orientation may not be relevant to their work or productivity!

Therefore, now the National Law School has asked the Centre to recognise "sexual orientation" as a source of discrimination against which there should be statutory protection. Our constitution and central laws already provide that there could be no discrimination on the grounds of religion, sex, caste, language, disability, descent, place of birth, residence and race among others. The Persons with Disabilities Act already covers such a protection that there could be no discrimination on the grounds of disability in any matter - be it education, employement, housing or otherwise.

Besides Sexual orientation, the EOC is also looking at adding pregnancy, gender identity, occupation, skin colour, political opinion and age also the grounds of discrimination!

I hope such a move in form of an enactment will give strength to the equality among all citizens of this country including those with diversities, though a large section of our political class and soceity is still divided ! Can we let the life prevail?


SC Vashishth

Here is the news from Time of India, To read from source- Click here

NEW DELHI: The move towards legitimising "gay rights" seems to be getting stronger by the day.

After the Delhi High Court order decriminalising homosexuality, the National Law School has asked the Centre to recognise "sexual orientation" as a source of discrimination against which there should be statutory protection.

The law school wants the Centre to put "sexual orientation" in the list of `grounds of discrimination' requiring safeguard in the Equal Opportunities Commission. S Japhet, director of Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy in the Bangalore school, told TOI, "There have been studies to show that sexual orientation of gays leads to discrimination in employment."

The proposed EOC is an ambitious move to redress the discrimination against social groups in employment, education and housing. These three domains are most plagued by prejudices, be it based on religion, caste or race. It is to be seen if the Centre obliges the law school by moving on its request. An explicit step to bar discrimination on a person's "sexual orientation" will be a big step in legitimising gay rights. The EOC, in the nascent stage of evolution, is likely to be empowered to take a complaint from a group to question the private and public enterprises in question. It would mean that any move to keep gays out of a workplace or a housing colony or an educational institution would invite the intervention of the`discrimination watchdog'.

The N R Madhava Menon committee, which drew up the details of EOC, shortlisted grounds on which discrimination should be prohibited. It includes prejudices based on religion, sex, caste, language, disability, descent, place of birth, residence and race among others. While the committee has said that the list could be kept open to accommodate more grounds in future, the law school has asked minority affairs ministry to include "sexual orientation, pregnancy, gender identity, occupation, skin colour, political opinion and age" in the purview of EOC. Besides `sexual orientation', the law school has also asked the Centre to list a bar on certain "food preferences" as a form of discrimination. It said, "Discrimination based on food preference, when it has a disproportionate impact on a deprived group, should be expressly provided as an instance of indirect discrimination." Sources said the demand from the reknowned institution will test the Centre on branding these contentious issues as forms of discrimination given the divided political opinion. Its acceptance would be tantamount to forcing organisations against "gays" into accepting them.