National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD)

The final tranche of the Central Government’s so-called Covid stimulus package has been unveiled today. Like it belied all other deprived sections of the Indian population, so also in the case of its disabled citizens. Apart from platitudes it has nothing to offer.

When the Prime Minister in his mega speech on May 12 invoked “atmanirbhar” (self-reliance), some had expected that it would be accompanied with a sense of “atmasamman” (dignity). That the government despite promises to the contrary would not do so, was evident from day one.

When the Finance Minister invoked “divyangs” while unpacking the contents of the first tranche it again kindled hopes in certain sections of the disabled community. But that the gesture was a cruel hoax played on them has come home to roost.

The FM had in an announcement made on March 26, 2020 talked about a one-time ex gratia of Rs. 1000/- for disabled persons through Direct Transfer. This was to be in two equal instalments spread over three months. Apart from the amount being grossly inadequate what she did not reveal at that time, however, was that this would be benefitting only 7.6% of working age persons with disabilities who are beneficiaries of the Indira Gandhi Disability Pension (NSAP). Unaware of this deception, lakhs of disabled citizens kept on complaining of the non-transfer of the announced amount to their bank accounts.

The overwhelming majority of the disabled population, 65%, are unemployed. Even those who have some form of employment, majority of them are in the unorganized/informal sector, who now have no source of livelihood. They do not possess ration cards either.

It also needs to be borne in mind that disability entails extra expenditure and social protection measures when being formulated, unfortunately, do not take into consideration these restrictions, accentuating their further marginalisation.

The NPRD strongly deplores the callous manner in which the government has sought to deal with the sufferings of the people. It reiterates its demand for an ex gratia payment of Rs. 5,000 per month to all disabled, till the lockdown is lifted and the country is rid of the Covid.