Tuesday, 21 October 2014

This is what my people say

 I have been blessed with having been accepted as a member of a loosely knit group of individuals who call themselves the Disability Rights Alliance which contains quite an erudite and right-thinking group of people - from legally trained minds to people with decades of experience of work in `the sector', and here is what one of them had to say about this contentious RPWD Bill of 2014:

   A reading of the Bill reveals that there is a complete lack of
   understanding of the approach of the UNCRPD on the part of the drafters.
   From abridged definitions (which are extremely crucial and clear under the
   convention), to plain callousness in the arbitrary and unresearched 'list'
   of disabilities, the RPWD Bill fails utterly in its lofty self stated
   objective to implement the UNCRPD. Some of the most crucial provisions of
   the UNCRPD which were celebrated in the disability movement – the adoption of the social model of definition of disability in Article 1, the concept
   of reasonable accommodation under Article 2, the right to full legal
   capacity under Article 12, the right to independent living under Article
   19, the right to accessibility under Article 9, respect for home and the
   family under Article 23, the right to inclusive education under Article 24,
   and the right to participation in political and public life, have all been
   either diluted or outright ignored by the drafting committee of this Bill.

And what I liked best about her summary of our various discussions on the topic was her


*IF* India's ratification of the CRPD was of informed consent (and with
'sound mind' by current law!),
*if* the RPWD Bill is to comply with the CRPD,
*if* historical injustice is to be ended with an emancipatory, equalising
legislation that aggressively promotes participation of disabled citizens
in realising their potential,

and *if* public's feedback is genuinely being sought in this and other
legislative and policy matters;

it cannot be this murky token excuse of public participation.
A section of the disability sector's legal members are of the opinion that
the preponderence of changes that are required to be made to the existing
draft (refer attached annexure) would be better served by a fresh law
instead of a much patched draft.

If so to avoid the current dismal state of affairs, needless delay and
waste of public's time and money clear, fair and transparent guidelines are
a must, and since currently lacking, are the need of the hour.

The DRA seeks a cross-sectoral representation of 4 DRA member
representatives to meet with the Standing Committee to enable India with
the disability law she so desperately needs.

What I really like about this is that it says, in a much more poitically acceptble way, the exact same thing I said in a possibly much more crude and abrasive fashion in my last post. Bottom line: FLUSH THIS BILL DOWN WITH THE WASTE-MATTER AND MAKE A FRESH START TOWARDS A UNCRPD-COMPATIBLE DRAFT OF ONE.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Old wine in new bottles - or the monster rears its head again

In this past December/January, an attempt was made to pass a Bill euphemistically called `Rights of People with Disabilities Bill 2014' when it was discovered just in time by many people that this was a more a Bill of denial of such rights, and a hue and cry was made with the result that this `Bill' was sent to a Standing Committee. The primary objection to the Bill was that it kept violating the tenets of the UNCRPD that India became signatory to more than seven years ago. (As for what I mean by these violations, please see a  past post in this blog where I go berserk on this theme.) One had hoped that this Standing Committee would try to supervise the drafting of  a completely new Bill that was much more in tune with the general principles of the UNCRPD.

But now, the Parliament has issued a Press Communique dated Sept. 26th, announcing that this Standing Committee is inviting suggestions on the Bill from the public within 15 days of the announcement of the Communique. They kindly give you a link to where one may find this Bill; and what does one find there, but exactly the repugnant Bill that there was such a hullaballoo over in January/February.

Why can't the committee appoint a subcommittee of appropriately qualified and knowledgeable people to draft a new Bill which does not contravene the UNCRPD every few lines? While the latter has a completely unambiguous and humane definition of `Persons with disabilties', the RPD Bill 2014, on the other, very sagaciously identifies exactly 19 forms of disability - how 19? why 19? why this 19? - and thereby sets the cat among the pigeons pitting the several million PWD in India against one another as to who may be recognised as a PWD and hence entitled to how much of the entitlements kindly rationed out to them. And the manner of assigning percentages of posts that would be reserved for various kinds of PWD can only be understood by an Indian bureaucrat familiar with our legalese. This manner of `divide and conquer' has not been as effectively used since the days of colonisation of the `primitive' peoples by the `civilised' colonisers. 

It almost appears that what is expected is a `point-by-point' rebuttal, with numbers of relevant clauses cited, of the existing draft. As one of my friends said some eight months ago, in colourful Tamil, this Bill is `such a hopelessly torn rag full of holes, that it makes no sense trying to darn it in a few places to try and present something halfway decent'. 

This draft is, quite simply, hopelessly flawed, and one must start from scratch on a fresh sheet of paper, starting from the UNCRPD, and making India-specific amendments only where absolutely necessary.  AND this exercise of drafting must be taken from disability activists representing different kinds of disability and different parts of India (rather than the same old people in New Delhi whom our media has almost equated with the public face of PWDs in India).

Let us PLEASE take a fresh look at this vitally important matter. We have been given a second lease of life to set things in order. Let us not waste this reprieve by making a mess of it again.