The government is set to widen the definition of “disability” to bring the count of physically challenged persons in sync with the ground situation, heeding complaints that the numbers are highly suppressed in India.
- The UN convention pegs the disabled in the world at 15% of the population while the national census has returned a figure of 2.21%.
- Given that poverty and disability have a close link, the figures in the national context are seen as unrepresentative.
- After a recent brainstorming on “estimation of disability data, the NITI Ayog asked the social justice ministry to work out ways to make disability more inclusive. The objective is that Census 2021 should capture the right picture.
- “The definition of disability should be widened with appropriate criteria to make it inclusive,” a directive from the Ayog to the ministries Jhas said.
- Disability has emerged a key area of concern the world over, with the segment also finding a more sensitive treatment domestically, even emerging as a serious political constituency.
- However, counting the disabled has proved tricky in view of a restrictive and narrow definition given in the census. There is general agreement in the government and among disability rights activists that information is withheld by families about members with “mental disabilities” in view of the social stigma attached to them.
- Now, inputs have been sought to make the census questionnaire more inclusive about disability data. The Registrar General will soon seek suggestions from the ministries on guidelines for Census 2021.
- Sources said the count of disabled may see a quantum jump if the ambit of disability is widened and accompanied by a social awareness campaign to promote truthful declaration by citizens.
- The disability sector has received a serious boost lately, with the Centre unveiling “Accessible India” campaign to make buildings and public utilities more disabled-friendly.
- On March 30, the ministries of urban development and social justice launched the “disability index” of public buildings to measure how easily accessible they are to physically challenged persons.
- Moreover, Rs 200 crore has been earmarked for 2016-17 for construction of barrier-free infrastructure and accessibility audit of government buildings and public places.