Persons with Disabilties held back by inadequate implementation of welfare measures A closer look at how and why India is unable to make various schemes accessible to those who need them the most

14, Sep 2022 | CJP Team

A new impetus has been given to rights of persons with disabilities after the enactment of The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. Since then, different schemes have been launched and been stalled or met with hindrances due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, despite the disabled people needing more resources to assist them, now more than ever in recent times, the funds that are allocated are meagre and for specific schemes – the allocation has been decreasing and thus resulting in implementation issues.

As the economy and workplaces recover from and adapt to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 crisis, numerous sections have found themselves at an aggravated disadvantage since the pandemic struck. The economically and socially marginalised have lost their livelihoods. One of the most affected sections were the people with disabilities. Not only did the pandemic stall the measures that were being taken up for their welfare, it posed a more intense set of problems in terms of Persons with Disabilities (PwD) having access to infrastructure and resources.

Now, institutions are trying to assuage the plight of PwDs by restarting various programmes that have been undertaken in the pre-pandemic period. Indian Government has released a Draft National Policy on PwDs aiming to replace the old policy of 2006.

Recently Supreme Court has asked the central government to be sensitive while dealing with the applications filed by physically disabled persons who had cleared civil services exams to apply for Indian Police Service, Indian Railways Protection Force Service and Delhi, Daman & Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep Police while hearing the case of National Platform For The Rights Of The Disabled vs. Department Of Empowerment For Persons With Disabilities & Ors.

A single judge bench of the Madras High Court recently dealt with the question of whether the certifying authority can insist that the person for whom the certificate of disability is sought should physically come to the premises of the institution for the purpose of assessment even though they may be unable to come. The bench held that persons suffering from mental retardation or mental illness are entitled to have their assessment done at the place where they reside for the purpose of issuing certificates under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 without any hassle or difficulty.

CJP has published a legal resource on the laws and different judicial decisions related to Persons with disabilities. This part deals with the implementation issues of the welfare schemes aimed at PwDs. It becomes important to understand where the country stands today in terms of the strength of implementation of such welfare schemes, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Latest comprehensive data on Persons with Disabilities (PwD) is from the 2011 Census. However, a sample survey conducted by the National Statistics Office-76th Round (July to December) in the year 2018(NSO Survey 2018) also presents latest sets of data albeit the presence of limitation of the survey data being not as comprehensive as the 2011 census data.[1]

According to the NSO Survey 2018- Prevalence of disability is 2.2% with 2.3% being urban and 2.2% in rural areas. In males, the prevalence is 2.4% whereas in females, it is 1.9%. Incidence of Disability, i.e., the onset of disability among persons taking birth in the period of 365 days preceding the date of survey is 86 persons per 1,00, 000. [2]

Resource Allocation[3]

 Resource Allocation is one of the most important indicators of how the government wishes to implement a certain scheme. Although the allocation of funds is not a stringent parameter, it indicates the intent of the government, and it also enunciates how little or how significant the support to PwDs has been.

In the last 3 years, the amount – in percentage of GDP- that has been allocated to the welfare of PwDs has been declining. In 2020-21, it was 0.0097 % of the GDP; in 2021-22, it was 0.0093% of the GDP and in 2022-23, it is 0.0084 of the GDP.

The percentage of money the country is spending on PwDs out of the whole spending of the government, has been decreasing.

When examined closely, the actual spending of the government is not only low but also, in most cases, lower than what it had intended and wished to spend.

The following are the departments that receive major amount of funding from the Union Budget for the purpose of welfare or PwDs.

  1. Department for Empowering People with Disabilities(DePwD).
  2. Department of Health and Family Welfare.
  3. Department of Rural Development.

Since discrimination does not happen in isolated silos, but intersects with other forms of discrimination on the basis of gender, caste, age etc., the resource allocation is also made specifically to fight these intersections of discrimination.

The Budget Estimate for the year 2022-23 for the purpose of scheduled tribe disabled people welfare is Rs. 60.66 Crore. The Budget Estimate(the amount of money the government wishes to grant to a certain department for a particular purpose) for the year 2021-22 to the DePwD was Rs.61.04 Crore whereas the revised estimate (the final amount the government ends up granting the departments at the end) was 47.90 Crore for Scheduled Tribes Disabled people welfare.This means that, last financial year, government said it would grant 61.04 Crore but ended up granting only Rs. 47. 90 Crore. We do not know yet as to how much the government will grant to the purpose this year. The actuals (the money that has been actually spent out of the revised budget estimates- is spent out of the revised budget)is released two years. Therefore, better understanding of how the budget has been spent by the departments in the last to years can be arrived at in 2024.

For Scheduled castes, the allocated money, in the financial year 2022-23, is Rs 117.09 Crore. The allocated money in the revised budget estimate of 2021-22 is Rs. 89.72 Crore. There is a huge increment from what the government granted last years for the welfare of schedule caste disabled people and what it said it will grant this year.

The funding to the DePwD for the welfare of children- the total money allocated is Rs. 73.50 Crore in 2022-23. Last year, the government first said it will give Rs. 72 Crore and revised it to Rs. 60 Crore.

The resource allocation is scarce for a section of population which constitutes 2% of the total population. Additionally, the existence of difference between the estimated budget and the actual spends, however small, has a bigger impact. Given that the money that is being spent for the welfare of PwDs is already very low, it does not help that the estimate is again revised to lower amounts.

Non-Utilisation of Resources[4]

 The resources, despite being sanctioned to departments, do not end up getting spent. Non-utilisation of funds results in haphazard attention to any welfare schemes which inturn lead to incomplete models of welfare for the persons with disabilities.

Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability’sreport on Budget has revealed the increasing trend of unutilised funds from the Budget Estimates when it comes to spends on PwDs. The unutilised funds in the financial year 2018-19 was 4.90% of the total money allocated. In the year 2019-20, the percentage is 15.66% of the total money allotted and in the year 2020-21, the percentage of money that went unutilised was 34.99% of the total money allotted. The Actual estimates of the years from 2021-22 have not yet been released.

An increasing amount of non-utilised funds every year also indicates a lack of awareness about schemes for Persons with Disabilities.

The trend in Assistance to Disabled Persons for the Purchase/Fitting of Aids and Appliances (ADIP) scheme is that the difference between budget estimate and revised estimate and in turn with the revised estimate and the actual expenditure has been positive. The ADIP Scheme is in operation since 1981 with the main objective to assist the needy disabled persons in procuring durable, sophisticated and scientifically manufactured, modern, standard aids and appliances that can promote their physical, social and psychological rehabilitation by reducing the effects of disabilities and enhance their economic potential. In 2019-20, the Revised estimate is Rs 223 Crore, and the actual expense is Rs. 214 Crore. In 2020-21, the revised estimate was Rs. 195 Crore and the actual expense is Rs. 189 Crore. This means that there has been a consistent underutilisation of funds that are allocated to ADIP.

The Deen Dayal Rehabilitation Schemeaims at enabling the environment to ensure equal opportunities make available the whole range of services necessary for rehabilitation of persons with disabilities including early intervention, development of daily living skills, education, skill-development oriented towards employability, training and awareness generation. For this purpose, a steady Rs. 125 Crore has been included in the Budget Estimate. From 2019-20 and 2020-21, the actual expenditure however has been Rs. 102 and Rs. 83 Crores respectively. There is a very steep difference between the estimates of budget and actual spends. This indicates that there is lesser emphasis on rehabilitation and other skill development schemes for persons with disability. Apart from aiding the persons with disability, it is important to create systems, economic and social, that will accommodate their needs. However, if the money spent on creation of such systems is meagre like as shown above, it will not yield favourable results.

The Scholarship scheme for PwDs also saw Budget estimates for the years 2019-20 and 2020-21 of funds worth Rs. 125 Crore but the actual expenditure was Rs. 95 and Rs. 97 Crore respectively. In both years, the revised estimate was Rs. 109 and Rs. 100 Crore respectively. In the same way as that of Deen Dayal Rehabilitation Scheme, the trend of lesser money than the estimated budget being spent on the scholarship scheme for the persons with disability. This shows that even education, one of the most important media to empower the community of persons with disability, has been seeing a consistent decline

To the Department of Health and Family Welfare for the purpose of National Mental Health Mission, the budget estimate was Rs 40 Crore for the years 2019-20 and 2020-21. However, the actual expenditure for both the years was Rs. 3 Crore and Rs. 20 Crore respectively. In 2021-22 and 2022-23, the budget estimate is still 40 and it remains to be seen how much difference there will be between the budget estimate and the actual expenditure.

Reforms, Measures and Policies

The last national policy on Persons with Disabilities was adopted in 2006 and it has been guiding the PwD related policy making from then. A new draft of the National Policy on PwDs was released by the DePwD in 2021, which is now open for comments until September 30, 2022.[5]

A change has been made with respect to the Income tax area regarding allowing tax deduction for the payment of lump sum amount to Persons with Disabilities when parents/guardians are alive, which earlier was allowed only after the death of the guardian.[6]

Covid-19 Response for Persons with Disabilities

A report prepared by a collective of Non-Governmental Organisations and been published on Indiaspend on the initial response by the governments to the problems faced by PwDs during Covid-19 Pandemic reveals that the most common help that was extended to PwDs was an advance payment of the monetary pension that they have been receiving under National Social Assistance Scheme. Kerala had a response system where cooked food, food kits and a state government backed top up to the NSAP pension.[7]Comprehensive data is unavailable in the intersection for Covid-19 and persons with Disabilities. There were also guidelines issued by DePwD regarding care for PwDs during Covid-19. [8]

It is not the best of a welfare measure to give advanced payments for the persons with disabilities given they would need more money and assistance during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Other Issues

 A 2019 study identified disability as one of the reasons due to which young girl children are being dedicated to Devadasi system in some parts of Karnataka. One of the report’s findings was that 11% of the women interviewed as a sample for the research were physically disabled and 8% of them were mentally disabled. One of the recommendations of this report is to adopt a multi-agency approach to fight the dedication of girls to the Devadasi system which has an exponentially discriminative effect on disabled women.[9]

According to another report by Centre for Law and Policy Research on discrimination based on Caste with the intersections of sex, gender, identity and disability in the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and Kerala:

  • 67% of Dalit persons with disabilities faced difficulties in accessing facilities in schools, such as toilets;
  • 52% Dalit respondents with disabilities were unemployed at the time of the survey and 21% highlighted the lack of accessible workspaces;
  • 24% Dalit transgender persons and
  • 23% Dalit persons with disabilities reported that they were denied medical treatment;
  • Over 70% of Dalit persons with disabilities said they had difficulty in accessing government offices and public transportation facilities.[10]

The extra marginalisation of individuals imposes discrimination on individuals on the basis of gender, caste and identity more intensely. Treating disability in isolated silos rather than treating it with other social conditions will only extravagate the problem.

As we have seen above, despite different schemes existing for the welfare of persons with disabilities- the implementation of the schemes is plagued by decreasing allocation, underutilisation of funds and lack of intersectional solutions for the discriminative effects of disability.

Image Courtesy: culturalsurvival.org

Related:

Indian laws pertaining to persons with disabilities

References:

[1] Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) in India – A Statistical Profile : 2021, http://www.nhfdc.nic.in/upload/nhfdc/Persons_Disabilities_31mar21.pdf

https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1593253

[2] ibid

[3]Allocation to Demand No. 94, Expenditure Profile 2022-23, Union Budget 2022-23, https://www.indiabudget.gov.in/doc/eb/vol1.pdf

[4] In Search of Inclusive Recovery An Analysis of Union Budget 2022-23, Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, Can be accessed at https://www.cbgaindia.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/In-Search-of-Inclusive-Recovery-An-Analysis-of-Union-Budget-2022-23.pdf

[5]https://disabilityaffairs.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/Draft%20Copy%20New%20National%20Policy%20May%202022%20.pdf

[6] Section 80D, Income Tax Act, 1961

[7]Too little, too few An initial analysis of the social protection response to COVID-19 crisis for persons with disabilities in India, May 2020

[8]https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1608495

[9] Wilson, Bincy & giliyal, anuroopa & raman, shruti. (2019). A QUALITATIVE STUDY OF THE LEGAL DIMENSIONS OF ‘DEVADASI’ DEDICATION PHENOMENON. 10.13140/RG.2.2.27880.93441.

[10]Intersectionality-A Report on Discrimination based on Caste with the intersections of Sex Gender Identity and Disability in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, https://clpr.org.in/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Intersectionality-A-Report-on-Discrimination-based-on-Caste-with-the-intersections-of-Sex-Gender-Identity-and-Disability-in-Karnataka-Andhra-Pradesh-Tamil-Nadu-and-Kerala.pdf

 

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