Activists push for disability rights bill

Kolkata, Jan 8 (IANS) Expressing concern over the delay in the passage of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, activists here Wednesday urged political parties to convene parliament to ensure that the legislation comes into existence at the earliest.

Disabilities Activists Forum (DAF) – a platform of disability activists and organisations – called for strong political will for passing the bill.
It observed that despite signing and ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007, India was yet to modify national laws in accordance with the convention.
“Despite the bill being approved by the union cabinet Dec 12, it could not be passed as parliament was adjourned sine die. Much like the Lokpal Bill, the Congress and the opposition should show political will and reconvene parliament so that the bill is cleared,” DAF president Sujata Parekh told mediapersons here.
The activists said the proposed law, which carries a comprehensive definition to include more categories of disability, and prescribes penal measures for non-compliance, when passed, will enable people with disability to shoulder more responsibilities as a citizens.
“There are over 26 million people with different types of disabilities in the country. The last decade witnessed a surge of 22.4 percent in that population. It is extremely essential that we have a comprehensive law governing such people. But it is sad that we have not seen any political will to pass the bill,” another activist, Tulika Das, said.
“The proposed law is holistic and besides conferring civil and political rights to the disabled, it also mandates the setting up of a Disability Commission as well as a special court for hearing matters related to them.
“We therefore urge all political parties to reconvene parliament, even if it is for a day, so that the bill which confers rights and not charity for persons with disabilities, is tabled and secured,” Parekh said.
DAF members also held a candlelight march in the city during the day, demanding the enactment of the legislation which aims to replace the Persons with Disability (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 – considered “inadequate” by many activists.
DAF members earlier submitted a memorandum to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, besides reaching out to Trinamool Congress parliamentarian Derek O’Brien, urging the passage of the bill.