Proposed amendments to RCI Act will not do justice to people with disabilities: Rights groups

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New Delhi, Jan 18 (PTI) Over 20 disability rights organisations have written to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, saying the proposed amendments to the Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992 will not do justice to the needs and aspirations of people with disabilities.

The government had last month proposed the amendments to the Act, saying the need for it has arisen in view of developments in the rehabilitation and education sector.

In a public notice, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJ&E) had proposed that the amendments to the Act will make the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) provide “accessible”, “quality” and “affordable” habilitation and rehabilitation education, regulate the conduct of such education, meet the demand of high quality professionals and personnel in all parts of the country.

The disability rights organisations, including the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People, National Association of the Deaf and the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy, said the proposed amendments do not reflect the felt needs of people with disabilities and the nature and number of skilled and qualified human resources required to meet those needs.

'The amendments appear to propose making the RCI a self-sustaining body within four years. It is likely that the financial burden of this will fall on persons with disabilities as well as professionals involved in the body for registration/ training. This will have a negative impact on the quality of rehabilitation services,' they said.

In a letter to Shakuntla D Gamlin, Secretary, Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry, the organisations said the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 recognising the heavy handed regulatory system existing in the country strongly advocated for independent empowered bodies that will set academic standards, accreditation and regulation mechanisms in Higher Education.

'For this purpose, the Higher Education Commission of India has been envisaged. The proposed amendments are not in consonance with these provisions in NEP 2020,' it said.

The groups further said the proposed amendments do not take into consideration the need and access to mental health care services.

'The proposed amendments are devoid of such an analysis and do not reflect the need of human resource requirement at different levels, addressing needs of people across different impairments and across disciplines, including skill development as envisaged by the National Policy on Skill Development 2015,' the letter read.

Further, it said, the RCI must be seen as an academic body and look into the development of trained and effective human resource at all levels of service delivery, that is, at community level, intermediate level and tertiary level.

'We would like to highlight one of the most important gaps in the proposed amendments, that is, the negation of the basic principles of UNCRPD (United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) and RPDA (Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016) - participation of persons with disabilities in general and that of health professionals with disabilities in particular has been left out in the process of developing the amendments, and have also been left out of the proposed Offices/Committees to be set up as part of the Act,” it said.

The rights groups also noted that at least 60-80 amendments proposed to RCI Act 1992 acknowledge the 'archaic” nature of the Act.

'Not only do these need to be revised but additional clauses would need to be added to make it more comprehensive, progressive and aligned to other Acts and policies,' they said.

'In the light of all of the above points, we urge you to convene a national level consultation under a government appointed empowered committee, representative of persons with disabilities and other stakeholders to develop a new law. The amendment process will not do justice to the needs and aspirations of people with disabilities and the Government's commitment to RPWD Act 2016, NEP 2020 and other initiatives of other ministries,' the letter added.

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