Differently abled not a vote bank: Rights activists

Indo Asian News Service

New Delhi, Dec 27 (IANS) Expressing dismay over the inordinate delay in introducing the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Bill in parliament, differently-abled rights activists Friday said the political class does not see them as a vote bank.

"We have been let down. Why did the government not take this bill as seriously as the Jan Lokpal bill? Why couldn't the political class show the same kind of will for this bill? It shows it is all about vote bank, and they still don't see the 70 million Indians with disabilities as one," said Disabled Rights Group (DRG) convener Javed Abidi.

He was speaking at an event organised by DRG and National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NRPD) that unveiled the strategy of the differently abled rights groups for pushing the bill in parliament.

"Four years of effort that went into drafting the bill, approved by the cabinet Dec 12, has gone down the drain with parliament adjourned sine die. Had it been in session for two more days, the bill would have at least got tabled, if not passed," the activist said.

In the draft Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2012, the definition of "disability" includes more categories.

Abidi added the rights of the differently-abled people in India have been vastly neglected.

"One of the major reasons for this is that we did not have a rights-based approach, and never looked at rights of people with disabilities," Abidi said.

The bill also prescribes more punishment than contained in the Indian Penal Code for offences against persons with disabilities, especially differently abled women and children.

"The current bill includes disabilities like autism. It looks at the rights of each differently abled person. Like us, even they have the right to take their decisions," said Action For Autism director Merry Barua.

She said, "If parliament does not take it up now, with elections scheduled next year, it will get lost."

Sharing their plans, Abidi said they have been approaching all major political parties to garner support, as the cause of disability is a non-political issue.

"As a mark of protest and to exert pressure on the political leadership, disability rights activists will hold a candle light vigil in various parts of the country while the entire world would be celebrating New Year's eve," he said.

In Delhi, the vigil will be held outside the house of Vice President Hamid Ansari from 5 p.m. till 12 a.m. "This is because he (Ansari) is the chairman and the custodian of the Rajya Sabha," Abidi said.