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NGO representatives walk out of meeting

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VOICING CONCERN: Activists from various parts of the State in front of the State Resource Centre in Chennai on Tuesday.
VOICING CONCERN: Activists from various parts of the State in front of the State Resource Centre in Chennai on Tuesday.

Deepa H Ramakrishnan

Organised by State Commissioner for Disabled to discuss amendments to Persons With Disabilities Act

CHENNAI: Representatives of several non-government organisations working for persons with disability walked out of a consultation meeting organised by the State Commissioner for Disabled on Tuesday to discuss amendments to the Persons With Disabilities Act.

Members told The Hindu that said they were angered as the Commissioner spent only a few minutes at the meeting.

When contacted, a senior official at the Commissioner’s office said that the Union government had only wanted the opinion of the State government, but the Commission took the initiative to call NGOs for a feedback. “Though the commissioner had left for some meeting, other officials were very much present at the meeting. We had a very interesting and productive interaction. It is a sad thing that some NGO representatives left in a hurry,” the official said.

Angered by the “Commissioner’s exit,” activists said that the Commissioner had been given two additional portfolios, which was against the Act. R. Meenakshi, assistant coordinator, Disability Legislation Unit (South) of Vidyasagar, said that if the Commissioner was in-charge of several portfolios, it is a violation of the law. “The consultation was held so that we can synchronise the Act with the international convention. If the nodal officer of the State did not stay for the full proceedings, we might as well have emailed our views.”

Vice-president of Federation of Tamil Nadu Physically Handicapped Associations, T.M.N. Deepak, demanded that a fresh consultation be held. “The last of the disabled must be involved in such a consultation. The media was not informed. Children with diabetes, persons with epilepsy and multiple sclerosis were not represented. The meeting had been held in a very haphazard manner. It shows that there is no political or bureaucratic will. We feel as if we are third-rate citizens.”

M. Ravichandran, of the Confederation for Mentally Disabled, said, “We went there with concrete ideas hoping that the consultation would be fruitful. Some had come from as far as Madurai. Issues such inclusive education had to be whetted. For instance, children with autism will find it very difficult to be integrated. The Centre wants to create a national fund on the lines of the National Trust for Mentally Retarded Children and Adults. The Trust has not been functioning as it should.”

Rajiv Rajan, coordinator, Disability Legislation Unit (south) of Vidyasagar, said that the 30 persons invited for the consultations could in no way represent the 22 lakh people with disability in the State. “We have been waiting for 15 years for this amendment and even after so many years, it still considers disability as an individual issue and not a social issue. The government does not seem to have an understanding of the issues of the disabled.”

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