look at the recent headlines in some of
the past few weeks, the country has witnessed a serious debate on the pros
and cons of extending reservation to socially and economically backward classes
in the private/ corporate sector and educational institutions. While there
are some quarters in the establishment that are in favour of bringing a law
and mandating the private/corporate sector to hire people on the fringes of
socio-economic mainstream, there are others who favour a carrot policy to
lure the corporate sector.
Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh gave a call last week to the private sector to
“volunteer to provide jobs and training to weaker sections.” Such a call indicates
that the Government is not willing to bring in a legal mandate to realise
the goal of United Peoples’
Disability sector has been quietly taking note of this debate, feeling perturbed at the fact that disability or disabled people have figured nowhere in this debate. Section 41 of the Disability Act mandates that the Government should give incentives to the private sector to encourage employment of disabled people. This demand of the disability sector has been pending for very long now. There were several petitions sent and several rounds of meetings, conferences and seminars held to impress upon the Finance Ministers of various Governments, but the Government led by National Democratic Alliance (N.D.A.) and U.P.A. have so far failed to spell out these incentives. Later the ball was thrown in the court of the disability sector to spell out as to what incentives they would want the Government to announce for the corporate sector to encourage them to employ disabled people.
In 2003, members of the Disabled Rights Group (D.R.G.) under the leadership of its Convenor Javed Abidi, had met the then Finance Minister Jaswant Singh who had assured that the incentives will be considered in the Union Budget 2004. However, the disability sector was hugely disappointed when the Interim Budget had nothing for disability.
In May 2004, N.D.A. Government had been replaced by U.P.A. Government and the disability sector was thrilled to have P. Chidambaram as Finance Minister. In June 2004, a delegation comprising P.M. Sinha, Prof. Bibek Debroy and Javed Abidi called on the Finance Minister. He once again assured the disability sector that he would give a serious consideration to the issue of incentives.
order to recommend suitable incentives that could be given to the corporates,
which will promote greater employment opportunities for disabled people, National
Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.) proactively
undertook a project to draft an ‘Incentive Policy’. As a first step, two research
studies were conducted: 1) Incentives Policies in select European countries
to promote employment of disabled people; and 2) Existing Incentives policies
All these efforts have not been adequately paid attention to either by the Government or the corporate sector. In the Union Budget of 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 the disability sector was in for a huge disappointment as not a word on disability was mentioned leave aside spelling out an incentive policy under Section 41 of the Disability Act. The question here is: does the blame lie entirely with the Government or does one hold corporate and disability sector responsible for not having the foresight to not let the issue take a backseat till some concrete, time bound action is taken on the matter?
1999, N.C.P.E.D.P. conducted a Survey of top 100 companies in
The immediate impetus for this study was the harsh fact that about 70 million people of the country are affected by disability and the ugly truth that only a miniscule number of about one lakh people have succeeded in getting regular employment since independence! The main objective of the research study was to reflect on the employment practices of the corporate sector (both public and private) vis-a-vis disabilities. The results point towards a rather dismal trend in terms of the current employment practices in the corporate sector with regard to people with disabilities.
This dismal trend continues even after 10 years of the passage of the Disability Act, 1995. In 2004-2005, NCPEDP entrusted the Social and Rural Research Institute of IMRB International to study the employment scenario in Corporates. A survey was conducted among 120 Corporates including Public Sector Units, Private Limited Companies and Multi-National Companies. The total employee strength of all surveyed companies was around 207450. Of these only 1861 were reported to be disabled employees. One major finding of the survey that is damning is only 12.5 per cent of the companies surveyed had a written H.R. policy, leave alone employing people with disabilities.
Quoting the new President of C.I.I., R. Seshasayee, it has been reported that C.I.I. has constituted a Task Force for Affirmative Action to take positive action to empower the backward classes. This Task Force is being set up under the chairmanship of J.J. Irani which would submit an action plan, in eight weeks, with focus on education, skills development, employability, entrepreneurship and social development.
It may be recalled that C.I.I. had set up a Core Group on Disability, currently being headed by Sujit Gupta. The question here is as to why disability is not being represented in the Task Force for Affirmative Action and why is it being dealt as a separate issue? The CII Core Group on Disability should have impacted upon the new President of CII to acknowledge disability as a minority on par with other socially and economically backward classes. Just as the Government of India has left disability to the mercy of a Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment similarly even CII is not adopting a holistic approach towards disability and excluding it to be taken care of by the Core Group.
In the forthcoming Conference, “Disability: Mainstreaming the Marginalised”, being organised by C.I.I. on 2 May 2006, the agenda for disability sector has been clearly laid out. It is time to lobby strongly for incentives and force the corporate sector to adopt and strictly follow the Corporate Code on Disability. Further, it is of urgent importance that disability as a marginalised identity group be given equal status not just by the Government but also by C.I.I.