Unlike those in the west most people with disabilities in India and their families are focused on survivalin the context of deep poverty. India’s disability rights movement however mainly comprise of elite middle class activists who generally mirror the goals of the disability rights movement in the western countries.
Disability in India is affected by other social divisions such as class gender caste. Statistics show that in India women with disabilities are more marginalized than their male counterparts. It is sad but true that Indian feminism has generally ignored the conditions of women with disabilities.
VISUALIZING THE PROBLEM
You have a disfigured body or face and people will stare at you and say “bechara”.
Close your eyes for five minutes in a bus stop near Sealdah Station and you will know what a blind man feels. There are sounds all around. You want to cross the road or catch a bus. As a blind and single you wait and wait till a helping hand guides you.
You have lost an arm and the prosthesis you get from the government is crude and hardly functional. I have often seen a disabled person keep this prosthesis hanging from a nail in the wall as a sort of souvenir. Modern technology has given beautiful prosthesis which is almost as functional as a normal arm. But that is outside your reach.
You are paralyzed in both legs and move around in a wheelchair. You want to go to the post office, the bank or to the police station. You can’t. In fact you can’t even reach this EZCC hall.
You cannot hear and you are crossing a road. A car honks. The driver brakes and shouts innumerable foul abuses at you.
Some people will look at you and say it is “karma” (past sins). Prejudice against disabled is so widespread in India that you will be shunned everywhere. Who is the employer benevolent enough to build a ramp for one or two employees with disability?
There are various ugly forms of discriminatory practices seen in the community towards children with disability. These are categorized as denial of disability, physical restraints, social boycott, denial of property rights, decreased marital life prospects due to disabled member in family, sexuality problem with a person with disability.
Women with disabilities face double discrimination due to traditional gender roles and expectations. Disability locates the individual in a compromised position not only as a function of biology but also as a product of a complexinteraction amongst the non-biologicalfactors like gender, caste, clan, neighborhood, the nature of kinship and family structure. Elderly women with disabilities are more vulnerable.
Disabled women in rural (even urban) India except in airports and 5 star hotels have no access to disabled friendly toilets. A large number of women are forced to defecate in the open either in the early hours of dawn or after dark which increases their vulnerability to harassment, violence and sexual abuse.
The accessibility issues relate to education, health services, employment opportunities, transport, social and political rights.
A recent study by NIMHANS, Bengaluru of ten mental asylums having large concentration of women inmates reveals family members were admitting women into mental asylums for grabbing their land and property.
Maternal health care services that are designed to address the needs of able bodied women might lack the flexibility and responsiveness to meet the special maternity care needs of women with disability
MAGNITUDE OF THE PROBLEM IN INDIA
According to Census 2011 the population of India is 121.05 Crores of which 2.68 Crores are disabled. The same Census tells us that there are 62.32Crores are males and 58.76 Crores are females of which 1.86 Crore males and 0.82 Crore females are disabled.
Of these 1.5 Crores live in rural areas and 1.18 Crores live in urban areas.
(Disability rights activists claim that the figure is much higher. World Bank data suggests that the number of persons with disabilities is between 4 to 8 crores. Whatever the difference between these figures, it is accepted that India has one of the highest number of people with disabilities).
Thus 2.21 per cent of India are disabled of which 2.41 per cent are males and 2.01 per cent are females.
Of these 20.3 per cent have disability of movement or as we call it locomotor disability. Another 7.9 percent have multiple disabilities of which locomotor disability is a component. After I present the data I will restrict the discussion to locomotor disability as this the field in which I work.
SOCIO ECONOMIC SCENARIO
If we look at the age group distribution of persons with disability we find that —–
- 1.82 per cent are between 10 to 19 years,
- 1.97 per cent are between 20 to 29 years,
- 2.09 per cent are between 30 to 39 years.
- Highest percentage of disabled are in the older age group (60 and above).
- 41 per cent of the disabled persons (7 years or above) are illiterate. Among males the illiteracy is 32.7 per cent and among females it is 51.6 per cent.
- At the all India level 36 per cent of the disabled are working. While 47 per cent male disabled are working the figure is only 23 per cent for female disabled.
THE INDIAN SCENARIO
We have failed to prioritize the problems of the persons with disability in India. The reason is simple. We have not been able to minimize the sufferings of the majority – workers, peasants, tribals, and Dalits and I am talking about able bodied persons – what can be done about the disabled? When the fourth world is ignored who will bother about the fifth world except giving high sounding lip service?
It is easy to reserve two seats for the handicapped in a public vehicle. But when people are hanging from the door handle in a crowded bus how will a disabled get in? When there are so many able bodied unemployed who will employ a person with disability.
Of course there are rules. Persons with Disabilities Act ensures certain rights and privileges for the disabled. But like so many other rights in this country these are hardly enforced.
FACILITIES AVAILABLE TO PERSONS WITH DISABILITY
Different governments at different periods have introduced different schemes for the disabled. Some of the more important facilities are enumerated below.
- Income tax deduction – both for the disabled and his guardian.
- Exempted from professional tax.
- Scholarship for those participating in post matric/ professional/ technical courses.
Scholarship is available from class 9 onwards for children with autism/cerebral palsy/mental retardation and multiple disabilities.
- Job reservation 3% in government establishments.
- Easier loan facilities.
- Disability pension schemes.
- Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase /Fitting of Aids and Appliances (ADIB Scheme).
- Railway and airfare concessions.
These facilities are available to persons who have Disability Certificates with at least 40% disability.
If you look closely at the facilities available, you will see that the bulk of the facilities are not meant for the marginalized and illiterate people.