By issuing twenty five legal guardianship certificates, the Kollam local level committee constituted under the National Trust (for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities) Act 1999 has made much headway in the district towards the protection of the life and properties of persons with disabilities (PwDs) covered by the Act.

District Collector, A. Shajahan who is the ex officio chairman of the local level committee said the efforts of the committee, constituted in 2002, has also resulted in Rs. 21 lakh going as fixed deposits in the names of the PwDs which otherwise could have been misused. He said the committee, a quasi-legal body functioning under the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, expects another Rs. 20 lakh as deposits in favour of the PwDs by the year end.

PwDs covered by the Act will find it difficult to perform their personal requirements, handle their landed properties and take decisions on their own health and welfare. In many instances the life and property of such persons having a share in family properties remain vulnerable. So on completing 18 years of age till the end of their lives, guardianship and maintenance of PWDs can be legally done only by an individual approved and appointed by the local level committee constituted under the Act, Mr. Shajahan said.

He said under the Act, a property on which a PwD has a share cannot be sold by the siblings or other relatives of PwDs without the consent of the committee. Sub registrar and village offices in the district have been sensitised about the National Trust Act and orders have been issued not to carry out any transactions related to assets of PwDs without the written permission of the committee. Mr. Shajahan said this move has totally stopped misuse of the properties of PwDs.

Committee convener, R. Venugopalan said it is to the parents of PwDs that the Act has brought the biggest relief. Such parents were always worried about what would happen to their disabled child after their time. But now they can rely on the local level committees of the National Trust Act for the protection of the life and property of their disabled child.

While in Kollam such parents have already started approaching the committee, the committee on its part plays an investigative part as well in locating PwDs for the purpose of implementing the Act. There are two types of legal guardianship under the Act. One is maintenance of the disabled individual alone and the other, maintenance of the PwD and the individual’s property.

Mr. Venugopalan said, if a PwD has a stake in a property that is sold, the his/her share is put in fixed deposit and the legal guardian is authorised to utilise the interest on it for the maintenance of the PwD. In the event of death of the PwD, the principal amount can be shared by the concerned relatives. At the instance of the Kollam local level committee, even the Kerala Service Rules was amended to suit the Act for the purpose of awarding family pension to deserving PwDs covered by the Act, he said.

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