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Constitution confers equal rights to Persons with Disabilities: All you need to know about Divyangjan and role of CCPD office in protecting their rights

Disabilities are of various kinds and the category “Persons with Disabilities” includes persons with visual, hearing, speech and loco-motor disabilities; mental illness, mental retardation, multiple disabilities and other disabilities.

Written by: Raj Singh, New Delhi [ Updated: August 01, 2017 6:22 IST ]
Image Source : PTI Persons with Disabilities during a march - File Pic
It was on December 3, 2015 that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for the first time, suggested that instead of ‘vikalang’, the term ‘divyang’ (divine body) should be used for Persons with Disabilities (physically handicapped people).
 
The Prime Minister reiterated the suggestion during his “Mann ki Baat” address on December 27, 2015.
 
"We see a person's disability with our eyes. But our interaction tells us the person has an extra power. Then I thought, in our country, instead of using the word 'viklaang,' we should use the term 'divyang. These are people who have a limb or several limbs with divine powers which we don't have," PM Modi said in his radio address.
 
However, PM Modi’s suggestion to change the nomenclature generated a debate among consultants, activists and government functionaries with some of them expressing reservations over the proposed shift in terminology.
 
It took five months for the government to bring about a consensus on replacing the term ‘vikalang’ with  ‘divyang’ and President Pranab Mukherjee gave his approval to the new nomenclature in May 2016.
 
Consequent to President Mukherjee’s consent, the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, was renamed as “Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) – Divyangjan Sashaktikaran Vibhag”.
 
However, many experts have pointed out that mere changing the nomenclature is not enough for empowering Persons with disabilities who face discrimination almost everywhere. 
 
There is near unanimity among policy makers and community leaders that the society needs to be sensitized over the rights of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan).
 
There is an urgent need, especially on part of the media, to create awareness in the society over the constitution providing same fundamental rights to Persons with Disabilities that any other person of the country enjoys.`
 

Present status of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) in India

 
According to Census 2011, there are 2.68 crore Persons with Disabilities in India who constitute around 2.21 per cent of total population of the country.
 
Out of these  2.68 crore Persons with Disabilities, about 1.50 crore are male while the rest 1.18 crore are female. 
 
Disabilities are of various kinds and the category “Persons with Disabilities” includes persons with visual, hearing, speech and loco-motor disabilities; mental illness, mental retardation, multiple disabilities and other disabilities.
 

Rights of Persons with Disabilities

 
The Preamble of the constitution of India seeks to secure to all its citizens: Justice (social, economic and political), Liberty (of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship), Equality (of status and opportunity) and Fraternity (assuring the dignity of the individual).
 
Similarly, Part-III of the Indian constitution confers six Fundamental Rights – Right to Equality, Right to Freedom, Right against Exploitation, Right to Freedom of religion, Cultural and Educational Rights and Right to Constitutional Remedies - to all its citizens.
 
What should not be forgotten is that all these rights and privileges are also available to the Persons with Disabilities although no specific mention of such persons appears either in the Preamble or Part-III of the constitution. 
 
However, the Constitution does mention “handicapped and mentally retarded” at two places: Eleventh Schedule to Article 243-G (Social welfare, including welfare of the handicapped and mentally retarded) and Twelfth Schedule to Article 243-W (Safeguarding the interests of weaker sections of society, including the handicapped and mentally retarded) 
 

Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016

 
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 was passed by the Indian Parliament on December 16, 2016 and it replaced the existing PwD Act, 1995, which was enacted around 21 years back. 
 
The 2016 PwD Act was passed to give effect to United Nations Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which India had ratified 1st October, 2007.
 
The UNCRPD laid down following principals for empowerment of Persons with Disabilities:  
 
(a) Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons
 
(b) Non-discrimination
 
(c) Full and effective participation and inclusion in society
 
(d) Respect for difference and acceptance of Persons with Disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity
 
(e) Equality of opportunity
 
(f) Accessibility
 
(g) Equality between men and women
 
(h) Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities:
 
Chapter II of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 confers following Rights and Entitlements to Persons with Disabilities:
 
(a) Equality and non-discrimination (Govt shall ensure that the persons with disabilities enjoy the right to equality, life with dignity and respect for his or her         integrity equally with others)
 
(b) Community life (Persons with disabilities shall have the right to live in the community)
 
(c) Protection from cruelty and inhuman treatment (Govt shall take measures to protect persons with disabilities from being subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman or         degrading treatment.
 
(d) Protection from abuse, violence and exploitation (Govt shall take measures to protect persons with disabilities from all forms of abuse, violence and         exploitation)
 
(e) Equal protection and safety in situations of risk, armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and natural disasters.
 
(f) Home and family (No child with disability shall be separated from his or her parents on the ground of disability except on an order of a competent court)
 
(g) Reproductive rights (Govt shall ensure that persons with disabilities have access to appropriate information regarding reproductive and family planning)
 
(h) Accessibility in voting (Election Commission of India and the State Election Commissions should ensure that all polling stations are accessible to persons with         disabilities and all materials related to the electoral process are easily understandable and accessible to them)
 
(i) Access to justice (Govt should ensure that persons with disabilities are able to exercise the right to access any court, tribunal, authority, commission or any         other body having judicial or quasi judicial or investigative powers without discrimination)
 
(j) Right to own or inherit property, movable or immovable, control their financial affairs and have access to bank loans, mortgages and other other forms of financial credit.
 

Education

 
Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 asks the government and local authorities to ensure that all educational institutions funded or recognized by them provide inclusive education to the children with disabilities and admit them without discrimination.
 

Social Development and Employment 

 
Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 asks the government to formulate schemes and programmes including provision of loans at concessional ratesto facilitate and support employment of persons with disabilities especially for their vocational training and self-employment.
 
It also asks the government to ensure that no government establishment discriminates against any person with disability in any matter relating to employment.
 

Office of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD)

The Office of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) plays a very significant role in safeguarding the rights and facilities made available to the Person with Disabilities. 
 
The CCPD office has been set up under Section 57 of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995.
 
The Chief Commissioner is empowered to look into complaints, suo moto or on the application of any aggrieved person, relating to deprivation of rights of Persons with Disabilities or non-implementation of laws, bye-laws, regulations, executive  orders or instructions for the welfare and protection of rights of Persons with Disabilities with the concerned authorities.
 
The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities has been assigned certain powers of a Civil Court for effective discharge of the functions.
 
Dr. Kamlesh Kumar Pandey, the incumbent Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) joined his office on 28th January 2016, for a period of three years.
 
India Tv - Dr Kamlesh Kumar Pandey
Dr Kamlesh Kumar Pandey
 
[Dr Kamlesh Kumar Pandey, Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD)]
 
A Science Graduate from University of Allahabad and Medical Graduate from Agra University, Dr. Kamlesh Pandey has been associated with Sewa Bharti, an NGO working in rehabilitation of slum dwellers and Akhil Bhartiya Dristihin Kalyan Sangh, an NGO working for visually challenged persons. 
 
Before joining the post of CCPD, Dr. Pandey was associated with Saksham, an NGO working in the field of disability.
 
After taking over as the CCPD, Dr. Pandey’s previous experience of working for the welfare of Persons with Disabilities helped him in expediting the pace with which his new office worked. 
 
During his tenure 2500 Complaints (including cases registered in the Mobile Courts) were registered in the office of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, out of which 2217 complaints are disposed of by now. 
 
Coming true to his reputation of being a workaholic, Dr. Pandey has held review meetings with 14 State Commissioners for Persons with Disabilities and officials of other departments in the their states till date. 
 
One of the major achievements of Dr. Pandey has been the successful organization of “Mobile Courts” in different parts of the country along with the Commissioners for Persons with Disabilities of the concerned State Governments.
 
India Tv - Dr Kamlesh Pandey holding Civil Court in Chhattisgarh
Dr Kamlesh Pandey holding Civil Court in Chhattisgarh
 
Dr. Pandey has conducted five Joint Mobile Courts within a short span of one-and-a-half years.
 
“My office is always ready to help out People with Disabilities in cases where their rights are privileges are being violated. We have provided justice to many such people in the past and we look forward to discharge out responsibilities efficiently and sincerely in future as well,” Dr. Kamlesh Pandey said.
 
Incidentally, the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities is now empowered to award imprisonment up to two years to those officials who are found guilty of obstructing justice to the Persons with Disabilities. 

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