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“Inclusion of disabled in Census a milestone”

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Javed Abidi
Javed Abidi

Ramya Kannan

Seven categories to be included, says NCPEDP founder

CHENNAI: The inclusion of the disabled in the count in Census 2011 will be a significant milestone crossed for the disability rights advocacy movement of the country, Javed Abidi, founder, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People, has said.

While the 2001 Census included a question about the disability issue, after much advocacy from the disability lobby, it was not comprehensive; there was insufficient training for enumerators and no awareness among the disabled. “It is unfortunate how it never occurred to independent India to count the disabled until 2001. It won't be an exaggeration, therefore, to say that prior to that, we were merely shooting in the dark,” he told The Hindu.

When the Planning Commission sits down to allocate funds, they strictly go by the book. “If you do not have the figures to show them, the funds are not going to come through,” he added. After the 2001 Census, there were widespread complaints from across the country that the enumerators had not even asked the question.

Despite this, the figures reportedly pegged the percentage of disabled at 2.1, though it is estimated to be between four and five per cent of the total population, he said. “It is a big gain to get into the Census.

The cold statistics are so important. So, this time round, we started communicating with the Census Commission quite early.” Since they believed that the last Census had an incorrectly drafted question, the lobby sat down to a consultation in order to revise it.

The decision was unanimous to include seven categories into the definition of disabled: Seeing, Hearing and/or Speech; Movement; Mental Retardation, Mental Illness; Multiple; and Any Other. “After a great deal of discussion, these factors were chosen by virtue of being practical, simple and based on the current vocabulary of the country,” he said. They also called for moving the question to the ninth place from its placement at 14 in the 2001 Census.

The recommendations had been forwarded to Census Commissioner C. Chandramouli. The document will come up for approval before the Technical Advisory Committee, which is scheduled to meet later this month. The NCPDEP and its partners were also invited to participate in the training of enumerators.

“The challenge before us now is to appeal to these people to ask the question on disability. It is a huge challenge for the movement and to convert this into an opportunity, we must stay united,” he said.

Part of the efforts would also involve a heavy duty awareness campaign among the disabled. “There is still a great deal of stigma association with disability, but you must come out to be counted. Remember, it is a once-in-10-years opportunity,” Mr. Abidi added.

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