According to the census report of 2001, the differently abled population of the country was estimated to be over 21 million, which was 2.1% of the total population of the country. In 2011, the population of differently abled people was almost 27 million, showing an increase of 22.4% between 2001 and 2011. The differently abled population is categorised into people with movement disability, people who are hearing impaired and visually impaired. In 2011 census, a new classification was added: the mentally challenged population.
In order to make this section of our differently abled population in India live a stable and comfortable life, to make them economically sound, to overcome their challenges and make them face the society with confidence, the Government of India has come up with many schemes, financial assistance and benefits which we are discussing below:
Educational Schemes and Scholarships
Let us first start with the education sector. Some of the prominent schemes introduced by the government are as follows:
• Scheme of National Scholarship for Persons with Disabilities: This scheme provides scholarships to differently abled people who want to pursue post matric/technical/professional courses, the duration of which is more than one year. For children with problems like cerebral palsy, autism, mental retardation or multiple disabilities, the scholarship is awarded from Class 9 onwards.
• Comprehensive Education Scheme for Disabled Children: This scheme provides books, uniforms, stationery, special learning equipment, accessible infrastructure, transport facilities, as well as scholarships to the differently abled children. The visually impaired students also get other additional benefits like as exemption from doing mathematical and pictorial questions. Students with visual impairment, learning disabilities, orthopaedic disabilities can also take the help of readers or scribes during examination time. Extra time in examinations is provided for students. These students are also exempted from third language and modification of curriculum so that they do not face additional problems in completing their education.
• Inclusive Education for the Disabled at Secondary Stage (IEDSS): This scheme offers help to disabled children 14 years or above for completing the secondary education from Class 9 to Class 12 in government or local schools. Here, the students with disabilities moving from elementary school to secondary school are identified and they are given access to study materials, scholarships, hostel facilities, transport facilities, guidance in studies, including provision of scribes and readers.
• Rajiv Gandhi Fellowship scheme: Students who want to pursue higher education such as M Phil / Ph D can apply for Rajiv Gandhi Fellowship. The scheme covers all the universities and institutions under the UGC and offers 200 fellowships every year. The fellowship is awarded for a maximum of five years.
• Scheme of Integrated Education for The Disabled Children: Integrated Education for Disabled Children Scheme (IEDC) is a central government sponsored scheme run by the Directorate of Education. The scheme provides educational opportunities for disabled children in common schools and also help them to integrate themselves with the society at all levels. Integrating differently abled children in general schools give a boost to their self-esteem. Benefits include providing allowances for books and stationary, uniform, transport, escort reader, and specialised equipment used by the differently abled child etc.
Economic and Employment Assistance
In Government jobs
• Students are provided 3% reservation in seats in government and government-aided schools and educational institutes.
• There is reservation of 3% posts in positions in Groups A, B, C and D in Government services.
• The Government has also given age relaxation of up to 10 years in the upper age limit for employment to government posts for the differently abled people.
• The differently abled people are also exempted from payment of application fees and examination fees.
• Persons with disabilities are not denied promotion on account of their disability.
• Also there are certain positions or posts reserved for them in various departments in a government office. These positions are reserved based on their ability to do the job as required in that position.
• Also for transferable jobs, the government has provisions to offer jobs to the differently abled people nearest to their native places. Requests from recruits for transfers to offices as per their choice are also given priority.
• There are special employment cells and special employment exchanges in all district headquarters of different state capitals for employing persons with disabilities.
• The government has also set up various vocational rehabilitation centres for persons with disabilities.
In private sector and self-employment
• The government provides for employment of differently abled people in the private sector through incentives to employers.
• The government pays the employer’s contribution of the provident fund and insurance up to three years for employment of differently abled people with a minimum salary of Rs. 25,000 per month.
• The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has reserved 7.5% for persons with physical disabilities who are involved in dealership agencies of public sector oil companies.
• The National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation provides loans for self-employment.
• People with disabilities are eligible for income tax deduction. Deduction of Rs. 50,000 is provided in the range of 40 to 80% disability. Deduction of Rs. 1,00,000 is provided to those with disability more than 80%.
• Differently abled people are exempted from payment of professional tax.
• Legal guardians/parents of dependent people with disabilities are also eligible for income tax deduction, on expenditures incurred on medical care, training and rehabilitation etc.