The article is presented as an introduction to CRPD Alternate Report for India (download) drafted by the ‘ the ‘National Coalition towards the CRPD parallel report’ Co-led by AccessAbility, Puttaparthi; EQUALS Centre for Promotion of Social Justice, Chennai and. Bapu Trust for Research on Mind and Discourse, Pune. This article has been written by Shivani Gupta, AccessAbility, Meenakshi Balasubramanian, Equals and Bhargavi Davar, Bapu Trust.
India has a strong Constitution that guarantees fundamental rights that are justiciable to all its citizens. Over the years, Constitutional jurisprudence has been progressive and in many landmark judgments, upholding human right of all citizens, including persons with disabilities. The Directive Principles elaborate on social and economic obligations of the state for citizens to lead a good life. These include guidelines for the formulation of law and policies, programmes and schemes.
India was early to ratify the CRPD in 2007 without any reservation. The country, however, has not signed the Optional Protocol as reported in the State report. Subsequently, the country has formulated the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPDA) 2016 and the Mental Health Care Act (MHCA) 2017 with the objective to implement CRPD in India. This alternate report is therefore based on the two new Acts.
While India has had a policy environment and recognition of disability inclusion since two decades, and is a party to a number of international and regional policy efforts such as INCHEON, Biwako Plus, and recently SDGs, yet the implementation and integration of aspects of disability inclusion remain dismal, as evident from this report.
Harmonizing other laws and policies to the CRPD has lagged behind. That significantly impacts the full enjoyment of rights by persons with disabilities. All personal laws, contract laws, provisions concerning holding of offices and positions across laws including laws specific to persons with disabilities and the people’s representation Act restricts equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities on the grounds of legal incapacity, unsoundness of mind, infirmity, physical and sensory difficulties. The right to vote is compromised for many persons with disabilities. There are no proactive measures adopted by the State to relook at the laws and amend those. Other disability-specific laws (NTA, RCI), constitutional provision on discrimination, etc. need harmonization too.
Implementation not cross-sectoral
The inclusion of persons with disabilities requires a cross-sectoral approach, with different ministries and agencies addressing aspects of inclusion. 3% of funds of most ministries are earmarked for addressing aspects of inclusion. However, only the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) has been responsible for ensuring inclusion.
For example schools for the deaf, visually impaired and special schools are part of the MSJE and not the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). MHRD is responsible for education overall. Similarly, Access India Campaign should be a cross-sectoral commitment and funds for retrofitting should come from all concerned Ministries and Departments.
Only 8 out of 100 Ministries and Departments at the Union level had any mention of persons with disabilities in their programmes and schemes. Out of these only 4 Ministries have a budgetary allocation that could be disaggregated to some extent.
Lack of concrete plans
There is a lack of concrete plans for the progressive realisation of the new Acts by the government. This becomes evident even if one was to read the budgetary statements made towards disability that gives a piecemeal focus each year on disability.
Rather than being responsive in developing a holistic plan to address inclusion, the government responds to urgent demands that come up at different times. Here too they do not address the depth of the problem, rather look only at the cursory aspects of the issue. For instance, the Accessible India Campaign address accessibility in a very small modelling approach rather than addressing accessibility to scale. Under pressure to deal with the rise of psychosocial disabilities, quick fix solution of starting mental institutions has been adopted, despite decades of human rights violations here. All schemes that are presently functioning are based on the erstwhile PWD Act 1995 without any amendments in their design or implementation. New disability specific programs launched or mainstream programs do mention disability in their design: While persons with disabilities may be recognized as a beneficiary group or reserving a percentage for them, subsequent implementation does not address disability-specific requirements such as accessibility, reasonable accommodation and so on thus having insignificant impact on improving lives of persons with disabilities.
There are several new schemes and draft policies announced and started as a populist measure. But they have never seen the light of the day. Several promises were made in the XII five year plan that with the change in the ruling party were forgotten.
Lack of participatory processes
A strong concern overall is the lack of involvement of persons with disabilities at the level of planning of policies and programmes. Persons with disabilities are not involved across all implementation levels including accountability and monitoring. There is no consideration given to accessible information in the language, means and modes accessible for all persons with disabilities. There is absolutely no effort to involve the rural population in the planning processes. While roll out of programs is done at the district levels, live presence of the programs, the District Planning Committees, Boards, etc. is dysfunctional in a majority of the States.
Lack of Efficiency in spending
The overall cost to the GoI – taking into account the allocation across all State and Union Government, across Ministries, and inclusive of tax and other concessions towards persons with disabilities amounts to 0.041% of GDP for the financial year 2017-18. Thus, while on one hand, the total allocations towards disability is inadequate on the other hand there is very high under ultization of even these funds each year. The monies are returned to the treasury. The key issues identified leading to lack of efficiency in spending include allocation of the majority of resources in the last quarter of the financial year, underspending, lack of allocation of the funds planned for the programme by the planning commission. For instance, the percentage of spending under the Inclusive education programme was 30% in the third quarter and 35% in the fourth quarter (in the year 2014 – 15) resulting in poor implementation of the programme.
Poor monitoring and lack of data
The National CRPD Coalition is struck by the serious lack of monitoring mechanisms to assess the impact of the schemes and policies on the lives of persons with disabilities. The existing monitoring mechanism is quantitative reporting numbers rather than evaluating the impact it makes on the lives of persons with disabilities. As a result, the schemes run in the same way without adopting learning from the ground to improve inclusion or outcomes on real lives.
Capturing disaggregated data of administrative and financial processes essential to ensure accountability and for further planning. However, this is missing for persons with disabilities across all levels of implementation. Many programmes do not mandate the disaggregation of data based on persons with disabilities. Lack of specific budget statement similar to the gender budget statement makes it impossible to cull out allocation across Ministries and Departments. Though the RPDA 2016 talks about social-audit of all schemes and programmes concerned with persons with disabilities, this is not yet reflected in the policy design.
Non – uniform coverage of rights, services and entitlements
India being a federal country, implementation of disability provision is under the preview of the individual states and the union territories. This brings in stark variations in the situation in different States and UT. For instance, there is a huge disparity in allocation funds by the MSJE for per-capita spending for specific expenditure related to persons with disabilities across the States and Union Territories, the smallest being Rs.5/ year (USD0.068/year) Gujarat and the highest being approximately Rs.15000/ year (USD205/year) by the Union Territory of Puducherry. As a result of this, there are considerable differences in the lived experiences of persons with disabilities living in different states or UT. There is no basic minimum standard of living that needs to be achieved irrespective of where the person resides.
Additionally, 69.49% of the population of persons with disabilities live in rural areas with 2 million families have more than 1 person with disabilities in the household . However, there is a dire dearth of attention by the government towards rural persons with disabilities. For instance, the few habilitation and rehabilitation services available are restricted only to the District Level. There is a near total lack of skill development initiatives, access to entitlements and social protection programs as close to the communities as possible. The effort by the State Governments to ensure community-based rehabilitation is grossly inadequate. As a result persons with disabilities living in rural areas are not a part of the mainstream disability discussions and remain disproportionately discriminated and invisible within their own communities.
Disability certificate is the key to accessing entitlements and social protection programmes across the states. As per the Annual Report, Department of Empowerment of Persons with disabilities 2017-18, till August 2017, 57.98% (disability population as per 2011 census) have been issued disability certificates . A large number of persons are given temporary certificates, which needs to be renewed from time to time. Majority of disability population especially those who are poor and from rural areas find it difficult to visit the district hospital a number of times for this purpose (accessibility, transport, cost etc) since the certificates are issued for many constituencies of persons with disabilities only at the District Headquarters on specific dates and during specific time schedule. This makes it really complicated since persons with disabilities have to travel at least 100Kms to reach the district headquarters and there are many instances that they will have make multiple visits due to the restrictive time schedule on a given day. This has resulted in the family to lose their wages on those particular days.