February 7th is a day with a history of dealing death blows to aspirations of people with disabilities (PWD):
It started a year ago when a cruel freak infection caused the death due to septicaemia of Rahul Cherian, a universally respected and loved lawyer and staunch supporter of the rights of PWD. His achievements and what he gave to the world and lives of PWD are immeasurable. One of his many legacies to us is the institution Inclusive Planet Centre for Disability and Policy that he co-founded; his wonderful institution's work is being carried on by Amba Salelkar who admits with pride that RC was her friend, philosopher and guide. She says her mentor taught her that we need to be transparent ourselves if we expect transparency from others; a measure of how well RC taught her this dictum is the manner in which she she has been unraveling for the legally less astute among us of the inherent flaws that are everywhere dense in the current RPD Bill 2014. (This draconian Bill which has had versions labeled 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, the last two of which were never made available for inspection by the stakeholders before they became fait accompli.) There has been a continuous stream of tributes to and gratitude for her elucidation of the legal nuances of the omissions and the commissions of errors in this new Bill, the resistance to whose passage has been wonderfully spearheaded by her with the assistance of numerous other friends of RC.
One of my favourite Rahul quotes is: we are not disability activists; we are from the land of Gandhi; we are freedom fighters. This current fight will be dealt a TKO (technical knockout, for people unfamiliar with boxing parlance) if this Bill which was, by a cruel blow of Fate, introduced in the Rajya Sabha on this February 7th, is allowed to be passed by the houses. (In fact, it was her remark on this terrible coincidence in an email earlier today that got me thinking of writing this tribute to her ever-cheerful attitude to this campaign she is directing.)
But Rahul trains his wards well. I have no doubt that if this wretched Bill does get passed, Amba will not rest till she leads her army of warriors until this Bill is annulled and a new version is drafted on a clean slate in conformity with the canons of the UNCRPD.