India is the largest democratic country in the world and is on its way to become a key player in the global scenario. It is our responsibility to ensure that this developmental cycle touches all the citizens of this country – the able and, especially, the disabled, who are often referred to as the invisible minority. But before we stamp them as minority, let us consider the recent census reports. According to the 2001 census the government figure for the physically handicapped was 2.1% of the entire population. A reserved guess would place that figure between seven to ten crores.
The National Policy identifies the Persons With Disabilities (PWD) as necessary and valuable assets of this country and the basic goal is to create an atmosphere for them in conjunction with the basic constitutional rights i.e. equality, freedom, justice and dignity. This will also guarantee equal opportunities for the PWD thereby ensuring the protection of their rights and enabling their full participation in the society.
The primary objectives of the National Policy are:
1. Physical rehabilitation which includes medical treatment, counseling, providing aids and appliances.
2. Educational Rehabilitation which offers vocational and on-hand training.
3. Economic Rehabilitation ensuring a better and dignified life in society.
India implemented the CRPD (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) act in 2008 which was enhanced by the National Center for promotion of Employment of Disabled People (NCPEDP) and Disabled Rights Group (DRG).
The Government has envisaged a number of schemes to promote the standard of life of the PWD in general.
Some of these schemes are:
1. Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase/Fitting of Aids/ Appliances (ADIP) involving physical rehabilitation of the PWD by providing them with aids and appliances
2. Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS) a multi-faceted scheme that addressing all the possible aspects of rehabilitation.
3. Scheme for Implementation of Persons with Disabilities Act aimed at providing funds for projects involving construction of public buildings, support the regional institutions that provide service to the PWD and creating awareness.
Some of the steps taken by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and Health and Family Welfare in India are:
1. District Rehabilitation Center (DRC) Project started in 1985.
2. Four Regional Rehabilitation Training Centers (RRTC) operative in Mumbai, Chennai, Cuttack and Lucknow under the supervision of the DRCs since 1985.
3. National Information Centre on Disability and Rehabilitation.
4. National council for Handicapped Welfare.
5. National Level Institutes- NIMH, NIHH, NIVH, NIOH and IPH
6. The adoption of the National Policy for PWD in 2005 (discussed before).
It is evident that the government is sincerely putting in effort for the life enrichment of the PWD. But we, the able-bodied also have a certain duty towards the physically handicapped and the disabled other than reserving a seat for them in one corner of public vehicles.
To conclude as Leo F. Buscaglia once quoted, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around”.