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Proposed amendments to Disability Act upsets N.G.O.s

D.N.I.S. News Network, India: The governmentís decision to introduce patchwork amendments to the Persons with Disability Act instead of a total replacement hit a rough stretch with disability activists.

Following is a news story that appeared in the Deccan Herald:

N.G.O.s. and activists have expressed their disappointment over the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment's (M.S.J.E.ís.) announcement that it would introduce amendments to the Persons with Disability Act in the forthcoming budget session.

While the government is preparing to put forth 101 amendments, advocate Kanchan Pamnani, who has been working closely with the Disability Rights Group that demands the total replacement of the Act, has said that the current law requires not less than 300 amendments.

"The minister has gone back on his promise to replace the law, which he had made to the members of the Group some months ago," said Kanchan, a Mumbai-based solicitor.

Many allege that the Act passed by the Indian Parliament in 1995 does not align with the United Nations Convention for Rights of Persons with Disability (U.N.C.R.P.D.) that calls for a rights-based approach.

"Having signed and ratified the Convention, India has an obligation to orient its laws towards it," Kanchan said.

Public domain

C. Mahesh, Advocacy Coordinator for Bangalore-based C.B.R. Forum said that the amended law should be placed in the public domain before being tabled in the Parliament. "The amendment must be placed before the public and debates need to be held before making any decision.

Apart from the 100 odd articles that have been proposed to be amended, there are nearly 18 articles that have been left out," he said.

Victor John Cordeiro, Manager Advocacy and Campaign, Leonard Cheshire Disability, South-Asia Region office said that the proposed draft amendment is not in line with the U.N. Convention. "There are many loopholes in the proposed amendment and many articles are excluded. A new legislation must be passed instead of amending the existing law," he said.

Earlier, Javed Abidi, Convenor of Disability Rights Group and Honorary Director of National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.) had asked the government to replace the Act with a new legislation which his movement calls "The Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Respect for Dignity, Effective Participation and Inclusive Opportunities) Act."

After meeting with M.S.J.E. Minister Mukul Wasnik, Abidi had said he has shared the concerns of the activists.

Flaws in amendments

"It was then that we brought to his attention the flaws, substantial ones, that still existed in the so called 'Amendments' document being floated around by the Ministry," said Abidi.

"We then proposed that what India needs now, rather what the 70 million disabled people of India need now is a brand new, modern, forward looking, 21st century law. We even proposed a name. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Respect for Dignity, Effective Participation and Inclusive Opportunities) Act."

However, the minister participating in the Louis Braille day celebrations on Monday has said that the government would introduce the amendments in what appears to be a u-turn on his earlier attempts to hold consultations and act according to the community's wishes.

"This is just a lollypop he is offering. The government doesn't appear serious on offering the disabled community what it needs," Kanchan said.

Source: http://www.deccanherald.com/