Brinda Karat suggests punitive action for discrimination against disabled people
The rights of people with disabilities can only be protected if the Constitution is amended to include punitive action for discrimination against them, said Brinda Karat, Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
Speaking at a national-level meet of the National Platform For The Rights Of The Disabled, Ms. Karat said even the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2012, slated to be tabled in Parliament, did not include any punitive action. “Unless this is done, we cannot align ourselves to any of the international conventions that we have ratified,” she said. She proposed a constitutional amendment on this matter.
Ms. Karat said: “There is no scope for tokenism here. It simply isn’t enough to say that we need to change the social mindset towards people with disabilities. This change will not happen until you put down a law that penalises those who discriminate.” In its current form, the Bill was “still in charity mode”, which should be replaced by a rights-based approach.
Putting the struggle for the rights of the disabled in context with neo-liberal 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.
Ms. Karat pointed out that people with disabilities were often at the mercy of the system, which required them to run from one department to another to avail themselves of or access 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.”
Critiquing the United Progressive Alliance government’s move to make corporate firms earmark 2 per cent of profits for Corporate Social Responsibility activities, even as it offers huge tax breaks to private companies, she said the “government must also make it mandatory that these CSR activities includes a focus on the issues of the disabled, by perhaps setting aside a fixed cess for this. This, of course, should go alongside our demand that corporate firms were taxed adequately, and those funds were used for providing services to citizens.”
She emphasised that the disability rights movement should recognise separate requirements and needs of people living with different disabilities. There should also be a special focus on people who belong to socially and economically oppressed sections such as Dalits, women or minorities.
The two-day conference had delegates from 14 States, including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Kerala, Tripura and Jharkhand.