Activists working with the differently-abed claim that the ruling AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu is not inclusive, saying that the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, was not followed during the state’s Pongal cash gift initiative.
Given that repeated protests and memorandums submitted did not ensure a 25% hike for Persons with Disabilities (PwD) in the Pongal cash gift, a petition was filed with the Madras High Court last December. The plea urged the Tamil Nadu government to not flout the Disability Act.
A memorandum urging the state government to extend the Rs. 2,500 Pongal cash gift to leprosy-affected families was also submitted to the Chief Minister. The process of doling out cash gifts is in full swing now, but the government has still not responded to the plea.
IMPLEMENT RIGHTS ACT, ENSURE THE DUE 25% FOR PWDS
The petition, filed by S. Namburajan on December 28, appealed that Rs 2,500 Pongal gift be hiked by 25% for families with persons with disabilities as per the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016. However, the state government told the Madras HC that the sum was given to households, not individuals, and that the RPWD Act was not applicable.
The petitioner’s counsel, C. Karl Marx, said that “if family cards do not hold records of PwD, then 25% of the amount should be transferred to their pension accounts”.
The demand to adhere to the RPWD Act, 2016, was made ahead of the Pongal festival last year. Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently Abled and Caregivers (TARATDAC), an umbrella organisation of differently-abled persons, submitted a memorandum to CM Edappadi K. Palaniswami. However, state revenue department officials turned down the demand on grounds that the Pongal cash amount is given for celebrations and does not come under any social security scheme.
Advocate Marx said that the words “social security” were mentioned in the government order announcing the Pongal cash gift. He added that irrespective of whether it was a gift or a social security measure, it had taken the form of a scheme and had to ensure 25% more for persons with disabilities. “Moreover, if it is a gift then all family card holders would be able to claim it, but that is not the case because only those who claim ration can claim the Pongal giftl; thereby it is a social security measure,” he reiterated.
Namburajan, general secretary of TARATDAC, said that “many people have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 lockdown and that farmers have been affected by the storm and floods and these were the reasons given by the Chief Minister for this gift amount.” Thereby, it is “a social security, poverty alleviation or developmental scheme,” he said.
A PwD rights activist stated that “it is not about whether the cash gift is for households or individuals, nor is it about whether it is a social security scheme or celebratory gift, it is about inclusivity of marginalised sections, and that is not ensured by the ruling AIADMK government”.
PROVIDE PONGAL GIFT FOR FAMILIES IN LEPROSY SHELTERS
In its statement on December 28, TARATDAC mentioned that over 750 families with leprosy patients living in ten government rehabilitation homes were denied the Rs 2,500 Pongal cash gift. Leprosy patients, abandoned by their kith and kin, live with their children in these state-run shelters. They are provided food and shelter here and are not eligible for the family cards. While these cards are primarily for availing ration through the Public Distribution System, most of the state-wide relief is distributed through this system.
Therefore, the association urged the CM to issue appropriate orders to concerned departments to ensure special family cards for leprosy-affected families so that they cold also avail the celebratory cash gift. However, the government has stayed mute to their demands.
EXTEND PONGAL GIFT TO TRANS PEOPLE
After the differently-abled, transgender people have also written to the Tamil Nadu government asking that the Pongal gift be extended to the community with its members also adversely-affected by the pandemic.