The differently abled populace of India heaved a sigh of relief as the Rights of Persons With Disabilities Bill, 2014 was recently passed by the Rajya Sabha in order to replace the previous Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. The new Bill incorporates several amendments that take steps towards including impairments that were not cited as disabilities in the past, such as those triggered by acid attack and Parkinson’s disease, in the scope of law.
As per the nationwide census conducted in 2011, around 2.2 percent of the total population were disabled, which amounted to nearly 2.68 crore citizens of the nation. However, the Bill would consider a larger number of people as disabled in contrast to the Act of 1995. In addition to that, the Bill is also in full compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. Ever since 2014, the legislation was overdue in Rajya Sabha, but later on was guided by Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment as per recommendations made by Sudha Kaul Committee.
Apart from covering 19 different conditions as disabilities rather than just 7, as was in the case of the previous Act, the Bill also cites provisions for enabling the Central Government to bring to notice any condition that has the potential to be recognised as a disability. The Bill even lays down provisions for entitlement of benefits such as reservation in employment & education to people with 40 percent or more disability. It also raises the reservation percentage from 3 to 5 for PWDs in government and higher education institutions.
The Bill has conferred a number of other entitlements and rights on PWDs –
- Disabled friendly access for all PWDs to public buildings
- Barrier-free access to all public infrastructure and transport systems
- Protection against discrimination in case of employment
It also contains a penal provision in order to attract a fine worth Rs. 10,000 from anyone who violates any provision of the PWDs Act. Succeeding violations can even lead to imprisonment for 2 years and fine of Rs. 50,000 to even 5 lakhs.
This remarkable step has been applauded by many Indian organisations for Persons with Disability across the country. They are happy about the fact that a substantial number of provisions mentioned in the Bill, which were previously ignored, have been addressed effectively via official amendments.