A three-day national conference of National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) concluded here on Sunday evening with a call for amendments to Article 14 and 19 of the Indian Constitution to make it disabled-friendly.

“Rights of the disabled are not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. Discrimination against the disabled should be made a punishable act in the country. The Union government needs to ensure better education, employment, food and healthcare service to the disabled,” said Kanthi Ganguly, national convener of NPRD and former Sports Minister of West Bengal.

The rights of people with disabilities can only be protected if the Constitution was amended to include punitive action for discrimination against them, he said.

According to CPI (M) politburo member Brinda Karat, who took part in the proceedings spread across three days, the organisation has no affiliation to any political party and was formed as a joint platform of disabled persons from 14 States. The platform has over 3 lakh members and it strives to ensure equal justice for the disabled,’’ she said.

Listing out the discriminations to which the disabled people were subjected to, Ms. Karat said even the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill was not passed so far by Parliament though its draft was prepared long back.

“There is no scope for tokenism here. We need solid steps to ensure changes in the social mindset towards people with disabilities. This change will not happen until you put down a law that penalises those who discriminate,’’ she said.

Putting the struggle for the rights of the disabled in context with policies that seek to cut welfare subsidies, she said at the core of the programme was the demand for State intervention. “It makes sense and logic that all disabled persons must have BPL cards. Every disabled person should have the right to free healthcare, education and food,” she said.

According to NPRD assistant secretary P. Muraleedharan, people with disabilities were often at the mercy of the system, which required them to run from one department to another for various services or entitlements. “There should be a universal card so that people with disabilities do not have to go to a separate place for railways passes, bus or transit passes, educational services, or jobs,” he said.

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