Much water has flown in the Ganges since India enacted The Persons with Disability Act 1995 and National Trust Act of 1999. The plight of the persons with disability (PwD) has remained more or less the same. The identification and consequently the counting of their number has confronted the problem of definition of the term ‘disability’ and its types. Investigators assigned to collect data are neither from the respective field nor they are medical people, they rely on certificate issued by the competent authority which many a time is unavailable. Coupled with this is the issue of definition used by the Census operations and the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO). Here it is quite pertinent to recall what NSSO 36th Round (July-December 1981) cites, “the detection of disability is very difficult if one wishes to follow a strict definition”. In this context the remarks in Dec. 1972 issue of ‘Rehabilitation International’ are ‘the information presently available on the quality and extent of disability throughout the world is scant. Statistics on the extent of specific disability and their causes are often inaccurate and generally incomplete. The figures which are available vary greatly. Among the variable that create problems of data interpretation are definitions of disability and the conditions which it includes (chronic limitations of activity, severe or minimal impairment, e.g. all visual defects, all anaesthesia in case of leprosy, all missing parts of the parts of the body including digits, limbs), statistics on possible causes of disability or the actual number of disorders.
The aforestated citation of NSSO highlights the issues in the collection of data about the number of persons with disability and is quite relevant in the present contemporary scenario even after about 47 years. The issue of identification and the counting of their number in the total number of persons in India is very vital. Notwithstanding the focus of the government of India to uplift the situation of this section of the society much could not reach at their end. It is an acknowledged fact that for a dignified and decent living a source of income or what one would say employment is a must. The Standing Committee on Rural Development (2012-13), Ministry of Rural Development (GoI), makes the reference point very clear about who could be considered as the disabled for employment in Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Programme (MNREGP) as per Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Act (MNREGA) of 2005 which envisage The PwD Act 1995 and National Trust Act of 1999 to be the reference point. The respective committee was appraised about the Mihir Shah Committee being constituted. Shah Committee prepared elaborated guidelines for the employment of PwDs in MNREGP as specifically suitable for the type of disability. Given the disability specific employment opportunity in MNREGP the present need is to identify and count the number of persons with disability as per the Rights of Persons with Disability Act 2016 passed by the Parliament in 2016 which is in consonance with the United Nations Convention on Persons with Disability. It is the most opportune time to work out the strategy of synchronization between different agencies collecting data on disability vis-a-vis the definition of disability and its types in different age groups as Census 2021 approaches near. The benefits of the initiatives to ensure an earning and to enhance their quality of life will percolate to the lowest ebb, the village, once the families of the PwD are aware about the disability and the specific type of employment for that disability in MNREGP with inclusion of the additional provisions in the Mihir Shah Committee guidelines as per PwD Act 2016.
About the Author
Dr Rashi Krishna Sinha
Department of Economics
Dr Shakuntala Misra National Rehabilitation University