With reference to the editorial, ‘A law that enables,’ published in The Hindu on June 18, 2012, J.P. Gadkari, director of PARIVAAR, a national confederation of parents organisations of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, says:
The idea of an “umbrella” disability legislation suggested at the conclusion of the editorial is not a new one. A group of some disability activists started pleading for ‘One Comprehensive Disability Law’ as soon as the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment set up a committee consisting of representatives of mainstream disability organisations in the country on April 30, 2010. They started agitating for changing the terms of reference of the committee which was assigned the task of drafting a new disability law (in consonance with the UNCRPD ratified by the Government of India on October 1, 2007) to replace the existing PwD Act 1995.
The Drafting Committee which consisted of representatives of all sections of disability took this issue for consideration at the very outset of its deliberation although it could have stuck to the terms of reference of the Committee and proceeded with its agenda. Going out of the way, it devoted lot of its precious time with a full-fledged discussion on the issue of ‘One Comprehensive disability legislation vs Multiple laws’ as they exist today.
After a thorough discussion, the Committee with an over-whelming majority came to the conclusion in favour of multiple laws, as they exist today, albeit with necessary amendments to bring them in line with the UNCRPD. Their conclusion was based on the need to provide specific services, particularly for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities [PwIDDs] and psycho-social disabilities.
The committee members belonging to this sector also explained that though the PwD Act 1995 had included Mental Retardation and Mental illness, it was necessary to have a separate legislation to meet their specific needs particularly dealing with rehabilitation and habilitation and life-long care. They also pointed out that despite the inclusion of these two disabilities in the PwD Act, they still remained most marginalised among the persons with various disabilities. Therefore, they expressed the apprehension that they will again become marginalised if they become part of One Comprehensive disability law.
Later this majority view of the Committee was upheld by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the Committee went ahead with its mandate and completed its job by the end of June 2011 and submitted the draft for the new Rights of Persons with Disabilities bill to the Ministry.
During its deliberations and countrywide consultations, the Committee also took the view that all other disability laws should also be amended simultaneously with close coordination between the Ministries of SJ&E, Ministry of Health and HRD in order to avoid inconsistencies and duplication.
Early this year the National Advisory Council undertook the exercise of extensively review the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill and has broadly concurred with the stand taken by the Committee.
We, therefore feel that there is broad unanimity and consensus in the entire disability sector on this issue and an umbrella law idea is not acceptable to it.