Jan 03, 2014
India’s Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment, Kumari Selja, talks to Ashok Kumar of OneWorld South Asia, at the 15th NCPEDP - Shell Helen Keller Awards-2013 in New Delhi.
OneWorld South Asia: The ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is bringing a new law for the empowerment of the disabled people in India. What would be the distinguishing features of this law?
Kumari Selja: The draft legislation on which the ministry is working is in keeping with the UNCPRD (United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities). The draft law has been drafted and it is in the last stage of finalisation.
Our country should be ready for the new developments that are taking place in the world. In line with that we are considering a new law, which would address the needs of more disabilities compared to the existing law.
I would like to see the bill taking the shape of law at the earliest.
OWSA: Despite the laws, the environment around the disabled is insensitive towards them. How do you think government can ensure that it is at its minimum level?
Selja: I agree to what you said. Even the families of the disabled are sometimes not sensitive to them. We have to make our society conducive to inclusion of persons with all kinds of disabilities.
Both sensitisation and laws are required to make a disabled friendly environment. There is a need of stringent laws on one hand, and of incentives on the other. We need to provide right kind of education, skills and training to make the disabled self-reliant, in a way. Given the right kind of environment, they can be equal partners in our society.
OWSA: Does the new law have provision for the welfare of disabled in the private sector too?
Selja: Everybody has to work together including the private and the government sector. In the government sector, we can have the provision of quotas. But it has been our experience that despite the reservation policy so many posts are lying vacant creating a huge backlog.
We cannot solve the problems with one stroke as the situation is quite complex in a country like ours, but this should not be an excuse for not having an inclusive society.
OWSA: The new Companies Bill makes CSR mandatory for companies. How do you think this opportunity could be used for the welfare of the disabled?
Selja: As far as the welfare of the disabled is considered, CSR may just be able to touch the tip of the iceberg. The commitment levels are more important than a mere provision of CSR activities.
OWSA: How can schools and colleges teachers be sensitised towards the disabled as the needs of latter are different from others?
Selja: I feel the situation is better now then it was earlier. Still, there may be a provision of special instructors for the disabled.
But, generally teachers need to be sensitised to deal with the differently-abled people. Many times teachers simply do not know how to deal with the disabled.