Editorial: Equal opportunities

The state cabinet on Monday approved the Jammu and Kashmir Rights of Persons with Disabilities Ordinance, 2017.

Though the announcement should have brought smiles on the faces of those who are physically challenged and have to face various circumstances in life with greater difficulty and challenge.

The promulgation of the ordinance will provide for increase in the disabilities from existing 7 to 21 and increase in the reservation percentage (horizontal from 3 to 4 %). The legislation is expected to immensely benefit PWDs through interventions, education, development skills and preventive care etc.

However, the ordinance smacks of official neglect and apathy as the state’s disability act though rectified in the last assembly session has hardly proved to mitigate the problems the people with physical challenges face day in and out.

The state assembly passed the amendment made in JK Disability Act in February this year. Though the amendments were made to create a full fledged post of a Disability Commissioner,  but as of now nothing concrete has happened on ground.

The appointment of a disability commissioner was proposed by the then Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed during a two days National Conference in 2003. However, the move and the announcement was never complied with.

Even during the Governors rule, the Governor N N Vohra was prompt enough to get the things moving in this regard and he too gave his ascent that a full time Disability Commissioner should be appointed to take-up the issues of the physically challenged people at a much faster pace.

However, the Government assigned the post to a special secretary rank official. Thus Law Department posed queries and the office of Disability Commissioner remained in limbo till date.

The amendment that the government made in the persons with disabilities act, as per experts has weakened the act and the government can now resort to filling up the post by a person who will have least experience in sorting out the issues of the physically challenged persons.

What is ironic is that the state of Jammu and Kashmir has the highest number of disabled persons among the other states accounting to nearly three percent of its population. According the census, the total population of differently-abled individuals in the state is 3.067 Lakhs. Out of total persons with disabilities, 2.8 lakh individuals are visually impaired, 0.38 Lakhs are physically challenged, 0.17 lakhs are with speech disability and 0.13 lakhs have hearing disability.

The census also reveals that over 21 million people in India are suffering from one or other disabilities equivalent to 2.1% of the population.

Among the total persons with disabilities in the country, 12.6 million are males and 9.3 million are females. Jammu and Kashmir tops the list.

In such a scenario the need is to ensure an empathetic attitude rather than a sympathetic one should be adopted. The government should ensure that equal opportunities should be provided to the physically challenged people in all spheres and the legislations and cabinet approvals should prove to be helpful rather than an impediment in executing these decisions.  

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