Shimla: Society for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies (SDRS), Himachal Pradesh Chapter, has come out with a People’s Manifesto for the Disabled in connection with the ensuing assembly election in the hill state. Ajai Srivastava, Chairman of the society and a crusader for the rights of the disabled, released the manifesto on the occasion of World Disability Day at Shimla earlier this month. Yashwant Rai and Bharti Kuthiala, Vice Presidents and Dalel Thakur, General Secretary of SDRS, were also present on this occasion.
After releasing the People’s Manifesto for the Disabled, the first of its kind in India, Ajai Srivastava said that the sole purpose of this exercise was to include the issues pertaining to disability in the election manifesto of different political parties. This section of the society has always been ignored in the polity and the issues of the disabled never got place in the election manifestos. He said that no state or country could become developed by keeping the persons with disabilities on the edge. According to him, the SDRS had organised a panel discussion of the senior office bearers of three major political parties in Himachal Pradesh – BJP, Congress and CPIM on the topic ‘The Disabled in Election Agenda’. This programme was held at Shimla Press Club last month, in which Khushi Ram Balnatah, General Secretary of BJP, Kuldeep Rathour, General Secretary of Congress and Tikender Pawar, Member of State Secretariat, CPM, made a public commitment to include the issues concerning the disabled in the manifesto of their parties. That became a ray of hope for more than two lakh disabled of Himachal Pradesh.
- The Himachal Pradesh Government should formulate a state policy for the persons with disabilities. Persons with Disabilities Act -1995 and National Policy for Persons with Disabilities have thrown this responsibility on the state governments. But the state of H.P. has taken no steps in this regard. The National Human Rights Commission has urged the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh twice to formulate a state policy for persons with disabilities. The Commission has expressed concern over the laid-back attitude of the state govt. on this issue.
- All the disability acts including Persons with Disabilities Act-1995, Rehabilitation Council of India Act-1992, National Trust Act-1999 and Mental Health Act-1987 should be implemented in the state in letter and spirit. At present the government and its agencies are blatantly violating these acts in the state
- State of the art residential institutions to impart education to visually impaired, hearing impaired and mentally retarded children should be established in the state. No such school is in existence in the state at present.
- The government should ensure free education, books, necessary aids and appliances and uniform etc. to the students with disabilities free of charge up to the class they wish to study.
- A state of the art vocational training centre should be established in the state to impart vocational training to the youth with disabilities so that they do not depend on the government jobs.
- All the public buildings like banks, post offices, hospitals, educational institutions, government secretariat and the Raj Bhawan etc. should be made barrier free. At present even the offices of State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities and the Director, Social Justice and Empowerment, have not been made accessible to the disabled. The government should ensure that the maps of proposed public buildings be cleared only after they have disabled friendly provisions in their architecture.
- The reservation quota for persons with disabilities in government jobs should be increased. At present it is 3 percent in the state.
- The government should ensure that at least 3 percent budget of all the poverty alleviation schemes/programmes is utilized for the benefit of persons with disability.
- Free travel facility given to the disabled in Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) buses should also be extended in the buses going out of Himachal Pradesh. At present this facility is provided to them only within the state. Moreover, free travel facility should be provided to one attendant of visually impaired and orthopedically disabled persons having severe disabilities (more than 75 percent disability).
- Educated persons with disabilities should be given unemployment allowance on the pattern of neighboring states.
- The backlog of the government posts reserved for the persons with disabilities should be cleared in a time bound manner and a preference should be given to those disabled who are working against the posts on temporary/contract or ad-hoc basis.
- The government should make efforts to reduce the rate of interest of the loan being provided to the persons with disabilities through National Handicap Financial Development Corporation and the terms and conditions of the loan should be simplified.
- Spine Injury Unit with Paraplegic Rehabilitation Center should be established in Indira Gandhi Medical College Hospital, Shimla and Dr. Rjendra Prasad Medical College Hospital, Dharamsala. At present, there is no such facility in the state and poor patients with spine injuries have to bear disability for entire life and their rehabilitation remains impossible. Spine injury causes paraplegia and quadriplegia, in which two limbs and four limbs become invalid respectively, is a very common problem in Himachal Pradesh due to high rate of bus and other road accidents.
- One eye bank should be established at Indira Gandhi Medical College Hospital, Shimla. More than two thousand visually impaired persons are there in the state who could get sight by transplanting a cornea.
For more details contact: Ajai Srivastava (ajaisri02[AT]yahoo[DOT]co[DOT]in