Home / Politics / Policy /  Rajya Sabha comes together to safeguard rights of the differently abled

New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014, to secure the rights of disabled people.

The bill stipulates a jail term of at least six months and up to two years, and a penalty between Rs10,000 and Rs5 lakh for discriminating against people who are differently abled.

The bill, which replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, was passed during a particularly acrimonious session, in what is being termed as a “rare show of unanimity".

The 1995 Act specified seven disabilities: blindness, low vision, leprosy, hearing impairment, locomotor disability and mental illness. The new law takes the number up to 21.

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Cerebral palsy, haemophilia, multiple sclerosis, and autism have now been brought under the umbrella.

The new law also recognizes disabilities that occur from acid attacks and Parkinson’s disease.

“It has been a very long journey to get the bill passed. When it seemed as if the session would be a wash-out, we lobbied very hard to get this passed. We organized vigils, made phone calls, wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office and are very happy that the bill was passed," says Javed Abidi, Convenor Disabled Rights Group.

Abidi is now hoping for a swift clearance in the Lok Sabha as well.

According to Abidi, one of the biggest achievements of the new bill is the expansion of the definition of disability to bring in other forms.

“Fourteen impairments which were earlier not considered have been added. I think India is perhaps the only country where we did not consider learning disability as a disability or did not include haemophilia and autism in the list," he says.

Individuals with at least 40% disability are entitled to reservation in education and employment.

The 1995 bill fixed the quota to 3% but the new bill raises it to 4%. It’s not a big leap as far as Amita Dhanda, professor at Nalsar University of Law is concerned.

In fact, Dhanda was not very happy with the quick debate around the bill and dismissed it as “legal charity. Debate, discussion, deliberations, we have thrown it all out of the window".

But Abidi says that the increased reservation will further help the cause of those who he refers to as with “marginalized or neglected disabilities like the ones which have now been included in the Act."

The bill also seeks to make all public buildings and not just government establishments accessible to the differently abled.

Earlier only government buildings came under this provision but now even private establishments will have to ensure ease of access for the differently abled.

“The bill can be considered a landmark legislation but the law by itself is only a document. Implementation is the key," said an activist who did not wish to be identified.

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