Strange as it may sound, it is true. It is easier to get a passport in India than a disability certificate. For the simple reason that the onus of issuing a passport is with the state, while the differently-abled are required to approach the state for getting their disability certified.
“Getting a disability certificate in India is a nightmare. Even in places like Delhi and Mumbai it is next to impossible, one can only imagine what it must be like in the smaller towns and villages,” says Javed Abidi, Director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People.
But now, with the Centre announcing amendments to the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Rules, 1996, things are expected to improve. As per the amended rules, the differently-abled will now have to appear before one doctor specialising in the nature of disability instead of a Medical Board, a time consuming process as doctors often skip Board meetings.
Also, now primary health centre (PHC) doctors have been given the right to issue disability certificate in cases of severe disability, while others with partial disability will still have to go to the District Hospital to get one. However, the new rules are yet to be notified.
“While we welcome the amendments, we will fight for empowering the doctors at the PHC level to issue disability certificates of all categories of disability since the present arrangement will leave many people out, thereby depriving them of the benefits,” Mr. Abidi said.
In fact, the XI Plan, approved by the National Development Council, provides for putting the onus of certifying disability on the state as is the case in issuing of a passport, which is delivered at the doorstep once the application has been filed.
The existing arrangement stipulates that a differently-abled person approach a medical board. Sometimes, women have objected to the manner in which the check-ups are conducted before a certificate is issued, Mr. Abidi said. It takes five to six months before a certificate is actually received. But once the new system comes into effect, the least time frame will be reduced drastically.
Announcing the amendments at the Ninth National Meeting of State Commissions for Disabilities, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Mukul Wasnik asked the States to adopt the amendments and ensure registration of all differently-abled people so that they are under the ambit of government schemes.
Some States have made considerable progress in issuing certificates to differently-abled persons. Andhra Pradesh has covered all, Jharkhand 97.8 per cent, Goa 89 per cent, Himachal Pradesh 74.8 per cent, Chandigarh 57.5 per cent, Andaman and Nicobar Islands 56.5 per cent, Punjab 53.8 per cent and Karnataka 52.9 per cent.