The Union Budget 2018-19 comes as a big disappointment to the disabled community in the country. It seems as though the disabled do not figure in the Finance Minister’s “fast growth economy” trajectory, says the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) in a statement.
The passage of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 (RPD Act) had ushered in great hopes and expectations among the disabled community who continue to be on the margins, NPRD said. However, the miserly outlays for the various positive provisions contained in the Act point to the utter lack of sincerity on the part of the government to implement its provisions it pointed out.
The total outlay for the department for the empowerment of persons with disabilities shows a marginal increase of Rs.215 crore as compared to last year. The allocation towards Schemes for the Implementation of the Persons with Disabilities Act (SIPDA) is a mere Rs. 300 crore. This includes provision for the much touted “Accessible India” campaign under which the target set is for making 600 public buildings accessible, 600 official websites accessible and making transport systems accessible among others. It is another matter that the campaign excludes from its ambit the vast majority of the rural areas, NPRD said.
“As for railways, the last few budgets have seen grand announcements being made of rail transport and stations being made accessible for all including the disabled. Given the number of unfortunate incidents reported in the media it was expected that the government would respond adequately. While there is no mention about the progress in the implementation of the announcement made last year of providing lifts and escalators in 500 railway stations, this year the Finance Minister has announced that escalators would be provided at 600 stations having a footfall of 25000 and above. Lifts which can be used by the disabled do not find mention in his speech. Also missing mention is about fulfilling the commitment made in the 2016-17 budget to provide accessible toilets at all railway stations,” the NPRD said in its statement.
Further, no new scheme has been announced or any substantial increase in allocation for existing schemes been made despite the mandate of the RPD Act, NPRD alleged. There has been no upward revision in the amount of disability pension and it remains stagnant at Rs. 300 for the past many years.
NPRD said that while the Finance Minister lauded the outcomes of various insurance schemes, and also announced the launching of the National Health Protection Scheme, ironically the central government has not been releasing money for the Swavlamban Health Insurance Scheme launched in 2015 for persons with disabilities through the New India Assurance Company Limited. The insurance company has now stopped collecting premium from beneficiaries.
“It is also disturbing that even while talking of health care the Finance Minister maintained complete silence on Mental Health. This, despite the enactment of the Mental Health Care Act in 2017” the NPRD said.
Unfortunately, in the absence of disaggregated data on allocations across various ministries for disability a clearer picture does not emerge, NPRD said. This has been one of the key demands of the disability sector.
“It becomes abundantly clear that the disabled continued to be abjectly neglected and excluded from the “ease of living” which the Finance Minister so pompously talked about,” NPRD said.