Only disappointment remained for those in the disability sector in the country whose hopes of a good budget were raised since the recent creation of a new Department for Disability Affairs.
“It has addressed neither the demands from the disability sector nor the promises made by the government through its 12th Five Year Plan document,” says Javed Abidi, crusader for disability rights, and convener, National Disability Network (NDA). The network promotes and protects all rights of all persons with disabilities.
“From the creation of the new department and the promises made in the 12th Plan document, we had very high hopes this year. And we hear only two mentions for the disabled sector. And not in the elaborate way that other marginalised sections of society [children, for instance] have been dealt with,” he explains.
“We were hoping the Finance Minister would be more generous with the allocations for the disability sector. All representations made by the community have been ignored.”
Lot of promises
“Forget representations, the 12th Plan itself makes a lot of promises for the disabled on various counts — education, habilitation and rehabilitation, health, barrier-free environments. However, this is not reflected in the financial outlay of the respective Ministries. Mere lip service is insufficient. We need to translate it to actual numbers,” Mr. Abidi adds.
One of the two “disability” mentions in Mr. Chidambaram’s speech was in the sector of life insurance. He announced a relaxation in the eligibility conditions for life insurance policies for persons suffering from disability or certain ailments by increasing the permissible premium rate from 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the sum assured for policies issued after April 1.
“This implies that persons with disabilities will be eligible for tax exemption even if her/his premium is 15 per cent of the policy value. However, the number of individuals with disabilities who are covered by life insurance are very few,” explains Meenakshi B, of the Disability Rights Alliance.
Condition, not a disease
“Higher premiums and the attitude of insurers are dampeners,” says C. Govindakrishnan of Netrodaya. “Our plaint is that disability is a condition, not a disease. Therefore, it is essential that we are not treated as ‘high-risk’ cases and levied high premiums. We would have been grateful had the Finance Minister ensured that the disabled are charged the same premiums, instead of tacitly endorsing the high premium.”
An initial budget analysis by the NDA reveals that while the announcement indicated an enhanced financial outlay of Rs. 110 crore for the ADIP Scheme (assistance to buy aids and appliances), the demand for grant document revealed only an outlay of Rs. 96 crore.
Also, analyses have revealed that there has not been much increase except under the category, “other programmes for the welfare of the physically handicapped” (Rs. 31 crore) This could be assumed to be the allocation for all proposed new schemes towards implementation of the 12th Plan commitments.
The outlay for the Inclusive Education for the Disabled at the secondary stage has been reduced from Rs. 63 crore in 2012-13 (BE) to Rs. 45 crore for 2013 -14 (BE), NDA sources say.
The allocation for the National Mental Health Programme has been increased from Rs. 117 crore in 2012-13 to Rs. 133.28 crore this year.
The majority of funds will go towards funding existing institutions and does not cater to the transition from institutional living to community living.
The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has allocated Rs. 7 crore for promotion of sports among persons with disabilities.
Mr. Chidambaram might have pleased some with his budget of 2013, but he has certainly disappointed India’s 70-100 million people with disabilities.