A ‘person with a disability is a person with long-term mental, physical, intellectual, and sensory impairments that hinders his full and effective participation in society. According to the 2011 census of India. There are approximately 26 lakh, disabled persons, with 8 lakhs in urban areas and 18 lakhs in rural areas. Of the total disabled population, 14 lakhs are males whereas 11 lakhs are females. The Indian society is largely negative about such persons due to the ignorance of the people living in the society and also the prevalence of superstitions related to the disabled. They are thought to be cursed due to which their family members often abandon them. There is a dearth of proper work and health facilities for these people. These are few reasons why there is a requirement of laws that can protect such people who are not able to fend for themselves.
Our constitution and some other laws and acts secure the rights of disabled persons and help them lead their life with dignity. Article 15(1) and 15(2) protects disabled persons from discrimination and helps them to access public facilities funded by the government freely. Article 17 helps them get equal opportunities in matters related to employment or appointment to any office under the state. Article 21 provides them with the right to life and liberty. Under the constitution, A disabled person has the same rights as that of a normal person. Persons with above 40 percent disabilities are also given reservations in education and employment. Under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, differently-abled candidates are given 4 percent reservation in government jobs, 5 percent reservation in higher education. In January 2020, a three-judge bench has given relief to persons with disabilities all across the country by providing a 3 percent reservation in direct recruitment and promotion for those employed in government jobs. This will help them reach higher posts without being discriminated against because of their disabilities.
Under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 1995, only seven diseases namely blindness, low vision, leprosy-cured, hearing impairment, locomotor disability, mental retardation, and mental illness. However, this was increased to twenty-one diseases in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities act, 2016. Diseases like cerebral palsy, dwarfism, muscular dystrophy, hard of hearing, speech and language disability, specific learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, chronic neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, blood disorders such as hemophilia, thalassemia, and sickle cell anemia, and multiple disabilities. Even acid attack is recognized under this act. Under section 3 of the Rights of persons with disabilities act 2016, no persons with disability shall be discriminated against on the ground of disability. Special measures are to be taken for women and children in order to ensure that they get equal rights as others. Under section 7(2) of the act, any person or registered organization who or which has reason to believe that any act of abuse and exploitation is being or likely to be committed against a person with a disability has the right to inform the local executive magistrate who shall take immediate action to stop or prevent such abuse or pass an order to protect the disabled person. Under section 13 all persons with disabilities have equal legal capacity as others. The act has the provision to grant guardianship for the person with disabilities. They also have the right to own and inherit movable or immovable property equally as others. Special courts will be set up in each district to handle cases related to persons with disabilities.
The mental health act 2017 gives mentally ill persons the right to be admitted into a psychiatric nursing home and to have a legal guardian in cases of severe disability and for minor patients. These persons also have the right to seek legal help. Even persons with alcohol and drug addictions can be considered mentally ill persons under this act. Under section 115(1) suicide has been decriminalized. The criminalization of attempts to suicide was mentioned in Section 309 in the IPC. However, since the person who commits suicide is already under severe stress unless proved otherwise, the usage of section 309 has been significantly reduced by section 115(1) of the mental health act 2017.
The government has tried to empower the disabled through its schemes and initiatives. The scheme of Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase/ Fitting of Aids and Appliances aims at helping disabled persons by bringing modern and good quality aids and appliances within their reach. The Deen Dayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme provides financial assistance to NGOs for providing various services to persons with disabilities like special schools, vocational training centers, community-based rehabilitation, and more. The Accessible India Campaign- Sugamaya Bharat Abhiyan is a campaign that aims to make a beneficial and favorable environment for disabled persons in order to facilitate them to actively participate in society. The national fellow for students with disabilities (RGMF) scheme aims to provide them more opportunities so as to facilitate them to pursue higher education.
Under this scheme, approximately 200 fellowships are provided to disabled students. The DISHA scheme helps in making disabled children with cerebral palsy, autism, and other disabilities between ages 0-10 ready for school. The scheme BADHTE KADAM helps in the social integration of disabled persons. Other schemes like Gharaunda, Niramaya, Sambhav, Sahyogi caregiver training scheme, Gyan Prabha, Prerna, Samarth, Vikaas help in giving health insurance, educational support, Skill development, and other services to the persons with disabilities.
Therefore, the government has taken a lot of steps to improve the conditions of disabled persons. However, there is still a deep-rooted stigma present in society regarding such disabled persons especially persons with mental health disorders like depression. There is a lack of legal capacity as persons of unsound minds are not allowed to participate in the activities of the state. Thus, it is the collective responsibility of the state and society to make India a better place for the disabled.
- Viji, (December 2016); “Disability in India” URL Link: https://vikaspedia.in/social-welfare/differently-abled-welfare/disability-in-india
- Viji, (October 2020); “Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016”; URL Link: https://vikaspedia.in/social-welfare/differently-abled-welfare/policies-and-standards/rights-of-persons-with-disabilities-act-2016
- Krishnadas Rajagopal, (January 2020), “SC affirms 3 % quota for disabled in PSUs” URL Link: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-affirms-3-quota-for-disabled-in-psus/article30654118.ece; The Hindu
- Choudhary Laxmi Narayan, Thomas John (January 2017); “The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016: Does it address the needs of the persons with mental illness and their families”; URL Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5419007/#:~:text=The%20RPWD%20Act%2C%202016%20provides,PWD%20by%20providing%20appropriate%20environment.
- The National Trust, Schemes; URL link: https://www.thenationaltrust.gov.in/content/innerpage/schemes.php