[AI] HT Editorial today: Differently-abled people don't recieve the dignity they deserve

avinash shahi shahi88avinash at gmail.com
Thu Jul 2 00:44:19 PDT 2015

India is Known to discriminate on the basis of caste, colour and
creed, the heart-rending plight of people like Rameshbhai Damar should
not occasion surprise.

However, it’s still worth recounting the story of the 30-year-old, who
was rescued from Gujarat’s Mahisagar district on Tuesday after he was
chained by his family for 15 years because Mr Damar is mentally

While it is inhuman to do such a thing, it would be equally wrong to
blame the family that was forced to do so in a country starved of
adequate medical and rehabilitation facilities for the likes of Mr
Damar or his family.

According to the 2011 Census, the country has 26.8 million
differently-abled people, constituting 2.21% of the population of 1.21
billion. According to the census, this means people suffering from
disability related to seeing, hearing, speech, movement, mental
retardation, mental illness etc.

Despite such a large number of people suffering from different levels
of disability, the country falls short when it comes to ensuring basic
facilities for them. Ask a physically-disabled person, and they will
tell you how difficult it is for them to navigate through Delhi’s
streets. People’s insensitive attitudes towards disability may have
improved a bit, but more still needs to be done.

The plight of the mentally disabled is even worse: There are only 43
government hospitals to cater to the estimated 70 million people
living with psychosocial disabilities. For every 1 million people,
there are only three psychiatrists, with a smaller number of
psychologists. Only 25% of hospitals, clinics and mental health
professionals are in rural areas.

Despite this, the government is yet to pass The Right of Persons with
Disabilities Bill, 2014, which covers 19 conditions of disabilities.
It includes conferring several rights and entitlements on disabled
persons like disabled-friendly access in all public spaces and
reservations in jobs and education for persons with at least 40%
disabilities along with preference in government schemes.

It is said that the moral test of a government lies in how it “treats
those in the dawn, twilight and in the shadows of life, i.e., the
children, the elderly and the handicapped.”

On all these counts, India has been found wanting.


Avinash Shahi
Doctoral student at Centre for Law and Governance JNU

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