Feature

Volume 3 Issue 20 - October 15, 2005

Status of Implementation of Disability Legislation in North East States of India

National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People’s Disability Law Unit (DLU) - North East in Shishu Sarothi, a leading N.G.O. working for children with cerebral palsy in Assam, has tried to assess the extent of implementation of the disability related laws in the North East region including Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura.Though responses were sought from Sikkim, none were forthcoming. So this state has not figured in this report. The assessment has been done through interactions, workshops and discussions with N.G.O.s, associations of people with disabilities and key stakeholders. The Report prepared by Shishu Sarothi throws light on the lack of implementation of the disability enactments in this region.

In the last twenty years, a number of statutes relating to the disability sector have been enacted. The major laws dealing with disability are The Mental Health Act, 1987, The Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992, The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, and The National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999.

With the passing of these laws there are a plethora of provisions for protection, care, treatment, rehabilitation, security and empowerment for persons with different disabilities. These laws also help effect a change in the way society looks at disability.

Picture of participants in the dharna

But unfortunately, these laws are not being implemented properly in the North East region with even the awareness level remaining low, as the study reveals.

Discrepancy in Census figures

To begin with, even the Census figures regarding the disabled population in the North East region are nowhere near the actual numbers as revealed by the C.B.R. Network (N.G.O.) figures. As per the Census there are 5, 30, 300 disabled people in Assam, whereas C.B.R. Network (N.G.O.) figures indicate 17, 79,968. In Arunachal Pradesh there are 33,315 persons with disabilities while there are 72,908 as per C.B.R. Network data. The same is the case with Manipur (28, 3756 persons with disabilities -Census 2000; 1,59,608 as per C.B.R. Network data), Mizoram (16,011 persons with disabilities - Census 2000; 59,540 as per C.B.R. Network), Meghalaya (28,803 disabled persons - Census 2000; 1,54,091 as per C.B.R. Network), Nagaland (2,26,499 persons with disabilities - Census; 1,32,880 as per C.B.R. Network) and Tripura (58,940 persons with disabilities - Census 2000; 2,13,233 as per C.B.R. Network).

Mental Health Act 1987

Except for Arunachal Pradesh and Assam all other States have State-level Mental Health service. But there is a Central Government sponsored Mental Health Institute in Tezpur, Assam. Yet public awareness regarding the service was seen to be very low in most of these states as most respondents are ignorant regarding the same.

It is a sad state of affairs that even the police and the administration in most of these states are unaware of the provisions of the Mental Health Act as well as their responsibility to protect and arrange treatment of mentally ill people. Though it is heartening to see that in Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura the Police Department is cooperative and is aware of the provisions of the Mental Health Act.

The Rehabilitation Council of India Act 1992

A look at the status regarding the Rehabilitation Council of India Act 1992 reveals that in Assam the availability of trained manpower in disability rehabilitation field is inadequate.

There are only 4-5 institutions offering a few R.C.I. recognised training programmes. Other States where the respondents felt that availability of trained manpower in disability rehabilitation field is inadequate are Mizoram, Meghalaya Nagaland and Tripura.

The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995

For a start, there is no comprehensive policy on disability in majority of the North Eastern States and no noteworthy steps have been taken to implement the Persons with Disabilities Act. Most of these States do not even have a full time Commissioner, and where there is one, the official is not active. There is a full time Commissioner only in Meghalaya and Nagaland.

As for the 3 per cent reservation, in Assam, jobs are yet to be identified by many departments for reservation for disabled peoples and restricted to C&D category. Nothing has been done to reserve A and B posts. In Tripura there is 3 per cent reservation only in C&D jobs. Identification of posts is still ongoing while there is no reservation in A&B category jobs.

In Arunachal, no steps have been taken for identification of jobs and reservation of posts against vacancies in identified jobs. A case filed by Kabak Tacho for reservation of jobs in Forest Department is still pending. There is no information available regarding A & B category posts.

In Manipur, Nagaland and Meghalaya no steps have been taken to reserve 3 per cent of all poverty alleviation schemes for disabled people

In Mizoram, the situation is slightly better with a reservation in employment, and jobs have been identified. There is also some awareness about 3 per cent reservation in poverty alleviation schemes fordisabled people.

The education scene is no different with no steps being taken by the State Governments to include disabled children in mainstream education.

The National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999

With the exception of Assam and Nagaland where there is some awareness of the National Trust Act and its provisions, there is no awareness of the Trust’s provisions in the remaining six North Eastern States, which is a sad commentary on the functioning of the state government machinery.

Picture of participants in the dharna

In Assam, 9 Local Level Committees (L.L.C.s) have been notified, but most of them are inactive, and meetings are irregular. In Manipur, Nagaland and Meghalaya and Tripura too L.L.Cs have been formed. But there is not much information regarding the meetings and their frequency. Very few sensitization and training programmes have been conducted in these states.

Conclusion

The onus of implementation of the laws relating to disability rests largely on the Government and its various entities at the Central and State level. There is also the issue of creation of adequate awareness about the legal provisions among the stakeholders and the implementers themselves so that they are able to avail of them and do the needful respectively.

But it is clear from the above account that much needs to be done in the area of implementation of the disability enactments. There is a great need for holding more training programmes to meet the acute shortage of rehabilitation professionals. And many of the authorities themselves need to be sensitised about disability issues.

The Education scenario is also sad. Some States have reserved seats for students with disabilities in institutes of higher education. However, none of the universities in the region have availed of U.G.C. assistance to make their universities accessible for disabled students. Hardly anything has been done for primary education of disabled children.

The situation with regard to implementation of Persons with Disabilities Act is quite dismal in most States. The authorities have also failed to give full effect to the statutory mandate of identification and reservation of jobs for persons with disabilities. The process for issuing disability certificates needs to be regularised and simplified.

Most public buildings and facilities are not accessible. There is scant awareness among the police and administration about their responsibilities towards the mentally ill.

Most of the authorities appointed under the Acts are not fully functional. The overall ignorance and apathy of the authorities needs to be urgently replaced with awareness, sensitisation for better compliance of the various enactments to ensure the dignity and rights of persons with disabilities.

No Annual Reports have been filed by Commissioners of Disability to date and knowledge. Apart from a few centrally sponsored campaigns, no specific efforts have been made to create awareness about causes and prevention and early detection in a few states.

It would suffice to say that a lot more needs to be done in all the states of the region by way of awareness generation and actual ground work by the authorities including the district and state level administrations of the North East, in order to bring about a positive change in the lives of the disabled people in the region.

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