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Kolkata: Rally on Disability Rights Demands Hike in Pension, Inclusion in MGNREGA Jobs

Rallyists criticise the Centre for not releasing adequate funds and state government for not fixing guidelines for MGNREGA jobs for the disabled.

Kolkata: More than 15,000 people turned up for a rally on Sunday at Rani Rasmoni Avenue, Kolkata, to commemorate the ‘International Day of Persons with Disability’.

Organised by the Pashchimbanga Rajya Pratibandhi Sammilani (PRPS), the West Bengal affiliate of the National Platform for Rights of the Disabled, the rally demanded the inclusion of disabled persons under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

Even though it has been declared that disabled persons would get jobs under this scheme, in most states, they are left out from the scheme, said PRPS. In West Bengal, too, disabled people are left out from MGNREGA owing to rampant corruption and apathy of the administration, it alleged

The impasse and the consequent slugfest between the state and the Centre on the release of funds has exacerbated the situation. Therefore, PRPS has demanded that persons with disability be included in MGNREGA, and the state government must come forward with adequate and flexible guidelines to include such persons.

Another demand raised in the rally was an increase in the disability pension amount. Since 2018, the disability pension has remained static at Rs 1,000. Even though pension of other sections of the population has gone up and the state government has liberally increased the largesse given to Imams and priests, as also to the puja committees, the disabled people are being constantly ignored, said PRPS.

Criticising the Central government for not faring “any better” on this score either, PSPS said the amount given under the Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension has not increased since 2011. It demanded that the amount be increased to Rs 5,000/month.

Sunday’s rally was addressed by Biman Basu, chairman of West Bengal Left Front, who criticised the Central an state governments for delaying the implementation of the Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016, even after seven years of its passage.

Member of Parliament Bikashranjan Bhattacharyas aid, "The governments of the state and Centre are busy promoting their image by providing schemes that are nothing but the fundamental rights of our people. The struggle of the disabled people is linked to the larger struggle to save the secular and democratic character of our constitution," he said.

Abhijit Ganguly, a judge in the Calcutta High Court, while addressing the rally, said, "The disabled people must be united and resolute in their struggle to gain their rights, as laid down in the Constitution." He urged the disabled people to take their fight to the streets until their demands are met.

 Kanti Ganguly, general secretary of PRPS, while expressing gratitude to the people for turning up in such large numbers, said, "We have written several times to the Chief Minister to give us some time to discuss the problems faced by persons with disability but she has not listened to us. I want call upon all you to prepare for a longer struggle for the actualisation of your rights.”

Anirban Mukherjee, who is visually disabled, is president of PRPS and executive committee member of National Platform for Rights of the Disabled. He teaches English in a secondary school in West Bengal. The views are personal.

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