UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, RPWD Act 2016, Mental Health Act, Rehabilitation Council India Act 1999 are applicable throughout the country. In J&K the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 is not being implemented because the rule formulation process is going on from years in the Department of Law, in coordination with Department of Social Welfare Government of J&K. It is unfortunate that the Rule formation for the RPWD Act 2016 is not prioritized.
Disability Commissioner is available in all states and union territories to look into the affairs of disability and facilitate persons with disabilities to get their problems redressed. After the demotion of J&K to Union Territory the State Disability Commission was dissolved and the new commission has not been formulated yet. Thus there is no department exclusively for the empowerment of persons with disabilities.
Access to Education
Education is the main tool to empower persons with disabilities. But the fact is that Educational institutions from KG to the University level are inaccessible to these people. Even the first step towards accessibility, that is ramps, are not available at the entry points of the educational institutions of J&K. The accessibility for persons with blindness in terms of infrastructure and learning material doesn't exist in schools of J&K. The pdf format books, soft books to access through laptops and smart phones is beyond reach of the children with visual disabilities in J&K. The Braille instructors and special educators in the cases of visual disabilities lack in Jammu & Kashmir. The children facing speech and hearing disabilities are mostly dropped out because no trained teachers available in J&K. There is a handful teachers available with the Education and Higher Education Departments. The salary of resource teachers is too meager that a good number of resource teachers gave up the job, and started working for other departments. There is less than ten resource teachers available with each district working under SAMAGRAH shiksha and the resource centres created are defunct in all most all districts. The Bookshare India has recently approached Disability Sector of J&K that if the stake holders of J&K allow and provide hard copies of books as per prescribed syllabus, in turn they will create soft copies of these books that will be available free of cost to all the children facing blindness or low vision. May anyone take heed.
The government of J&K has recently announced that in Jammu and Srinagar Cities Municipal corporations will run some schools and these schools will be model schools. The question here arises that whether the Deputy Commissioners of Srinagar and Jammu cities will direct the Municipal authorities that such schools should be inclusive, and accessible for all types of students with disabilities.
The examinations organized by J&K Board of School Education are also giving troubles to students with disabilities. There is no clear policy with J&K Board of School Education for accommodating students with disabilities. The issues related to availing amanuensis / scribe have become tedious for the Board authorities. Students facing blindness, cerebral palsy, upper limb amputations or weakness are suffering due to insensitive attitude of the Board authorities. This year the exam date sheets for class 8th, 9th and 10th were notified simultaneously. How could the students with disabilities manage a scribe from other schools? J&K Board always fails to deliver accessible books to students with disabilities. The J&K Board staff has not been sensitive towards the students with disabilities, at district sub offices and at the main offices at Jammu & Srinagar. The clerical staffs at Secondary and Higher Secondary schools, who fill register rolls, admission forms and examination forms, don't have the necessary trainings in this regard, and are not educated about the relaxations and exemptions for the students with disabilities. We, in J&K, hope for notification of appropriate guidelines in favour of students with disabilities in consultation with disability experts.
SC / ST /OBC Corporation and Women's Development Corporation are the channelizing agencies for the grant of advances / loan for the startup of livelihood generation units under National Handicapped Finance Development Corporation, providing special loans to youth with disabilities on low interests. Persons with disabilities from all districts have applied for the grant of such loans but again the guidelines are not followed by the agencies. There is a provision that up to 4 lakh rupees loan no one shall be asked to get Government employee as the witness. But in some district offices two government employees are asked to offer guarantees for seeking loan; and shockingly even bribe is demanded to sanction the cases. The files of many youth with disabilities are pending for sanctions but there are unnecessary delays. There should be some vigilance body to keep eye on implementation of the scheme.
The employment of educated persons with disabilities is possible through the jobs under reservation / quota but persons with disabilities having least or no education need to be empowered through skill development, and opening up of livelihood generation units. The work orders / contracts should be given in favour of contractors facing disabilities and through self-help groups.
The best way to celebrate the World Disability Day is to include persons with disabilities in developmental programmes. The inclusion of persons with disabilities and making them independent should be the ultimate goal, so that persons with disabilities can be contributors in the development of nation and not at the receiving end, or be treated as parasites. Instead of offering charities, and some nice talk, the persons with disabilities should be supported to safeguard their rights in order to live a life with dignity as mandated by Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016.
Javed Ahmad Tak, Social Activist, Honorary Chairman Humanity Welfare Organisation HELPLINE NGO, Bijbehara, District Anantnag Kashmir.