Monday, December 8, 2014

More challenges than disabilities for the differently-abled

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2014 was observed on a grand scale at Khelgaon near Gangtok on 03 December. Around 80 differently-abled persons from the Special School for Autism (run by Spastics Society of Sikkim), JN Memorial Institute for the Visually Impaired, and Special School for Hearing Impaired participated in the event. The theme this year was “Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology” for the 3.48 percent differently-abled out of the total population in the state.

This statistic is however on the verge of getting swamped out since as per the Social Justice Empowerment & Welfare Department, the last Census survey conducted in 2011 [the data from which is awaited] appears set to post numbers showing that the figure has risen threefold since then.
With the Chief Minister having already assured the establishment of a State Comprehensive Rehabilitation Centre (the DPR has been approved) for the differently abled still living under the shadow of stigma and discrimination, the first such centre to be run by the state government, there is still need for everyone in society and the government to focus on the very basic areas of assisting this section of society.
Speaking on the present status of the differently-abled in the state, Advocate Dr. Doma T Bhutia, who represented Paljor Bhutia in his PIL filed in 2007 on the non-implementation of the provisions of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, informs that the High Court of Sikkim had issued various directions to the state government for the benefit of persons with disabilities living in the state on the PIL.
She however argues that denial of such benefits and opportunities as contemplated in the Act continue.
Seven years down the line and unlike as directed by the High Court, no person with a disability has been employed in any Group-A post in the State government. Similarly, even though the High Court had directed for 3 percent job reservation for persons with disabilities, the State had not implemented it until another PIL, this one by Bhumika Sharma was filed in the Supreme Court. Then the state government immediately started adhering to the 3 percent reservation in government jobs and an extension of 10 years age relaxation for people with disabilities.
Similarly, unlike directed by the High Court, the last survey conducted was in 2011 since when the registered numbers have risen considerably and no notification has been issued by the state government on disabled persons being provided job reservation in the public sector. There has also not been a change in the architectural design in public buildings where the High Court has directed the provision of ramps and adaptation of toilets for wheelchair users and support facilities for access to all government buildings, Dr. Bhutia adds.
“The judgment was well defined and clear; however there are still many grey areas that need to be looked into. The Government’s stand was that they were aware of the Constitutional obligation and committed to perform the statutory duties made incumbent upon the Government so as to deliver good governance to the people of Sikkim,” states Dr. Doma T Bhutia.
She adds that the judgment on the PIL stated that the State government was already implementing 3 percent reservation policy for persons with disabilities in the public employment including other related provisions under the Act; however, till date some of the provisions stipulated in the Act have not been implemented. Here, she adds that the state Counsel had at that time assured that the government was keen to implement all the prayers made in the PIL and nonetheless, the compliance of all the relevant provisions as contemplated in the Act and the prayers made in the PIL would require sometime and those would be acted upon with due attention and care within a reasonable time.
“Seven years is a long time to adhere to the directions of the High Court, how long will it take the state government to realize the gravity of the situation and how people with disabilities need the support and encouragement which is their fundamental right?” asks Dr. Doma.
Meanwhile, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities was observed on Wednesday on the theme “Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology”. The focus was on the role of technology in: Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Responses; Creating Enabling Working Environments; Disability-Inclusive Sustainable Development Goals.

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