Incapacity and disability are often used interchangeably. Due to general public view and prejudices, there is a widespread underestimating of Divyangjan’s abilities and potential, which feeds a cycle of underachievement. Negative attitudes toward disability may be seen as imperceptible obstacles to effective rehabilitation because of the influence that society’s opinions have on Divyangjan’s possibilities, opportunities for life, and help-seeking behaviours. When trying to get a meaningful job and build employable skills, Divyangjan in India faces numerous obstacles. For Divyangjan to efficiently accomplish their responsibilities, they also need the proper equipment, accredited training, and a safe working environment. A customised strategy to satisfy their demands for vocational training is possible; nevertheless, solving these issues is difficult and necessitates diverse, inventive solutions. In light of the complexity of the issues at hand, this article will explain how India directed its attention toward laws, programmes, and initiatives that attempted to include and empower Divyangjan.
Connoting Divyangjan: A New Recognition
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a disability could be described as ‘the state of having a physical or mental condition that makes it difficult to do some things that most other people can do’. Disability impacts person’s activities and can happen at birth, or it can happen in adulthood. While the Preamble to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)-2006, adopted by the United Nations, states that disability results from the interaction between people with impairments and psychological and environmental barriers that prevent them from fully and effectively participating in society on an equal basis with others.
According to the medical paradigm, people who have specific physical, intellectual, psychological, or mental disabilities are considered to be impaired. Consequently, the weight of responding to the environment through cures, treatments, and rehabilitation is placed on the individual since the disability is linked with activity constraints. The social model, on the other hand, focuses on a society that places excessive limitations on how people with impairments behave. Disability in this context is not a personal trait but rather a product of social interaction. It promotes the idea that people with disabilities are entitled to their rights and should work to eradicate institutional, physical, informational, and attitude barriers in society.
Hence, with the very intention to break the stigma, Prime Minister Narendra Modi coined the term ‘Divyangjan’, which means the one with a divine body part. The Prime Minister said that persons with disabilities should no longer be referred to as disabled persons or viklang. The word connotes positive social attitudes towards the disabled and recognises their potential.
Constitutional and Legal Provisions
The Indian Constitution offers plenty of room for the creation of legal tools to defend the Divyangjan’s rights. The next paragraph outlines some of the key constitutional provisions that facilitate inclusive policies for people with disabilities in India.
The Preamble of the Indian Constitution, among other things, aims to ensure that all of its citizens receive access to social, economic, and political justice, freedom of expression, and equality of status and opportunity. All of the essential freedoms protected by Part III of the Indian Constitution are predicated on the idea that every person is worthy of respect. All citizens are guaranteed a set of six Fundamental Rights under Part III of the Constitution. Even though there is no explicit mention of people with disabilities in this section of the Constitution, people with disabilities (PwDs) are nevertheless entitled to all of these rights.
Additionally, the State is mandated by a number of constitutional provisions to treat everyone equally (including disabled). According to Article 41 of the Indian Constitution, the State must make appropriate provisions for safeguarding the right to work, to education, and to public assistance in circumstances of unemployment, old age, illness, and disability, as well as in other cases of unjustifiable need, within the bounds of its economic capacity and development. Furthermore, Article 46 imposes a duty on the State to safeguard the economic and educational interests of the weaker groups of the population from social injustice and all types of exploitation.
The Indian Constitution kept the subject of disability on the State list when dividing legislative authority between the Centre and States. In addition, the following clauses in the Constitution address PwD-related issues:
- Eleventh Schedule to Article 243-G: “Social welfare, including welfare of the handicapped and mentally retarded.” (Entry No. 26),
- Twelfth Schedule to Article 243-W: “Safeguarding the interests of weaker sections of society, including the handicapped and mentally retarded.” (Entry 09).
In order to meet its duties under international laws, Article 249 of the Constitution gives the Parliament the authority to pass laws on any topic included in any list. Being a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, India was obligated to reform its domestic laws governing the disability sector. Accordingly, the Government of India enacted the path-breaking legislation, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 replacing the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
Additionally, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment’s Disability Bureau served as the Central Government’s main point for managing issues relating to people with disabilities prior to May 2012. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment established the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) to focus on policies, programmes, and initiatives aimed at the inclusion and empowerment of PwDs while also taking into consideration the complexity of issues involved in managing disability. Since its establishment, the Department has increased outreach efforts geared toward the empowerment of PwDs and established a strong presence through its numerous policies and programme initiatives.
The Indian Constitution guarantees everyone’s equality, freedom, justice, and dignity and implicitly calls for an inclusive society that includes everyone, including people with disabilities. This necessitates a multi-sector collaborative approach that includes all relevant governments, including the Central Government Ministries, State Governments/UTs, Central/State undertakings, local authorities, and other relevant authorities.
In May 2012, a distinct Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) (DEPwD) under the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment was established in order to give policy issues focused attention and substantive thrust to the activities intended to promote the welfare and empowerment of people with disabilities.
The process of empowering people with disabilities involves many different disciplines and addresses a variety of issues, including prevention, early identification, intervention, education, health, vocational training, rehabilitation, and social inclusion. Hence, the government have come up with various processes which intend to empower the Divyangjan.
The government has intended a Special Recruitment Drive for Persons with Disabilities, which was announced by the Department of Personnel and Training, the focal department for recruitment issues in Central Government establishments. As a result, it promotes Divyangjan’s to seek out government employment and also makes it easier for them to gain social standing.
One of the Indian government’s top priorities was disability certification. The Ministry announced the rules for determining the extent of specific disabilities in a person in 2018 with the inclusion of new categories of disabilities under the RPwD Act in mind. These rules, among other things, give a breakdown of the medical authorities for certifying disabilities. Therefore, the government has started the Unique Disability Identity (UDID) project since 2015-2016 with the goal of having a uniform and hassle-free process for the certificate of disability and creating a national database for people with disabilities. Even the central government is working hard to digitise all currently printed certificates of disability and upload them to the portal as soon as possible, after consulting with the States and UTs. Hence, this will help the Divyangjan to access all possible facilities provided by the government and utilise them for their well-being.
Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) make up a sizeable portion of the population in India, yet they encounter numerous obstacles while trying to find a meaningful jobs and develop employable skills. They still have issues with the labour market. In terms of the total population, rural places have a greater proportion of disabled people. The PwDs in rural areas are notably cut off from markets and expertise. The quality of life for people with disabilities can be significantly improved by expanding their access to vocational training and work possibilities. Hence, some existing Skill Training and Employment Landscape for PwDs are:
- National Action Plan (NAP) for the SIPDA of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities for the skill development of people with disabilities.
- Through the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana, the DEPwD, the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, and the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) provide vocational training courses.
- 24 Vocational Rehabilitation Centers for Handicapped (VRCHs), currently known as National Career Service Centers, are supervised by the Ministry of Labor and Employment (NCSCs).
- Additionally, private sector training institutions and NGOs also put an emphasis on skill development and vocational training.
- Public sector organisations have made significant contributions to the vocational training of persons with disability.
The key to include people with disability is to create a barrier-free atmosphere for them. Therefore, the government envisions an inclusive society where Divyangjan has equal access to chances and opportunities for progress, enabling them to live healthy, secure, and dignified lives. The DEPwD, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment launched the Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) on December 3, 2015, the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, in support of this aim. The Accessible India Campaign is a major national initiative to remove barriers and achieve universal accessibility for people with disabilities. It focuses on three areas: Built environment, public transportation, and information and communication technologies. More than 1030 central government buildings and over 577 government buildings have been made accessible as a result of the programme. Accessible amenities like ramps, assistance desks, and accessible restrooms have been installed at all 35 international airports and 55 of 69 domestic airports. The government has also created the Sugamya Bharat App, a smartphone app for crowd sourcing accessibility issues.
To encourage students with disabilities to continue their education at all levels, the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities is presently implementing an umbrella scheme, ‘Scholarships for students with disabilities’. This umbrella scholarship program’s main goal is to enable disabled students to continue their education so they can support themselves and find a dignified place in society. These students face numerous barriers, including physical, financial, and psychological ones, that prevent them from pursuing their education and leading dignified lives. Additionally, the department offers free coaching services to students with impairments so they can get ready for competitions and entrance exams for different professional programmes. The Indian Sign Language research and training centre has also been established by the government in Delhi to support the use of sign language and to grow the field’s human resources.
The government is also working to encourage PwD athletes to participate in sports. There is a wealth of talent among Divyang athletes in the nation, as evidenced by the fact that India took home 19 medals, including 5 gold medals, in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. A Center for Disability Sports has also been established by DEPwD in Gwalior.
Through the ages, divyangjan has been treated in a variety of ways, but oppression has been the norm more often than not. A persistent push for rights by people with disabilities, their loved ones, and well-wishers has sparked a fresh perspective on disability. This clearly affects the frameworks for law and policy as well as the methods used to put them into effect. The right of the divyangjan to live and participate in their communities, and to secure the maximum support possible so that services related to employment are provided through systems that comply with minimum standards of quality, has been one of the most significant advancements in policy and practise in the latter half of the twentieth century.
Also, strengthening institutional arrangements for the implementation of these programmes is equally vital as formulating policies and programmes from the perspective of creating a framework for PwD inclusion and empowerment. Therefore, without the active involvement of all stakeholders, the objective of having a truly inclusive society cannot be attained through government actions alone.
Hence, all divyangjan need a safe, secure, and accessible environment that respects their dignity in order to function as human beings. We must learn to treat every person with respect for their individual differences and treat them as fellow humans.
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