While the rest of us partied our way into 2014 disability activists all over India went on a nationwide candlelight vigil, yesterday. Prominent activists from the disability sector – Javed Abidi the convener of the Disabled Rights Group, Zorin Singha from the National Association for the Deaf, Dipendra Manocha ( National Association For The Blind) Merry Barua (A.F.A), Radhika Alkazi ( Arth- Astha) and Syamala Gidugo ( AADI) ; all came together at the Jantar Mantar in support of a bill which has taken four years to draft. It was a rather peaceful protest with a gathering of a few hundred people- some in wheelchairs, some who couldn’t see and many who couldn’t hear, demonstrating about the new bill not being tabled in Parliament.
The already existing law- The Person with The Disabilty Act 1995 is insufficient in providing for a better future for the disabled. The Bill that is meant to replace it shall do the needful, according to these activists. Some of the changes that the Disability Rights Bill seeks to make such as emphasizing on inclusive schooling and tax deduction benefits to employers of disabled employees, will help in a higher integration of differently abled citizens into the main framework of Indian society. As of now there is a delay in the introduction of this Bill.
According to the 2001 Census there are over 21 million differently abled people in India. What we need to ask ourselves is, if we want these millions of people to be included into our society or excluded from it?