The health of the Persons with Disability Act, 1995, in its implementation, is in need of resuscitation. Most in distress is the non-implementation of reservation quota guaranteed by the Act in the medical services sector.
The Act mandates a three per cent reservation for the disabled in all government jobs.
While two categories of disabled persons that usually can take advantage of this reservation are automatically excluded from joining medical services - visual and hearing impaired persons - those with disabilities in the lower limbs are allowed to qualify as medical professionals.
Technically, they should be allotted the three percent seats while the State hires doctors for its medical services.
All this is fine, in theory. While a Government Order in 2005 identified 117 posts that were reserved for the disabled; in 2013, an additional 170 posts were identified under the Tamil Nadu Medical Service, Tamil Nadu Subordinate Medical Service, Tamil Nadu Public Health Service and Tamil Nadu Public Health Subordinate Service. These include the posts of Assistant Surgeon in the specialties of physiology, radiology, radiotherapy, Siddha, Ayurveda, Unani, speech therapist, dietician, and health officer. However, implementation is quite another issue.
Earlier this year, the Differently Abled Welfare Department Secretary wrote to the Tamil Nadu Medical Services Recruitment Board (MSRB), making these points. He was writing to point out that despite these orders, MSRB’s communication of March 2013 calling for applications for direct recruitment had no reference to the disabled quota.
“The MSRB specifies even the percentage of disability, and the posts reserved on its website, but does it become invisible to the Board when it comes to actual recruitment?” asks S. Namburajan, State secretary, Tamil Nadu for the Rights of all Types of Differently Able and Caregivers (TARATDAC).
TARATDAC has written to the Chief Minister to intervene in the issue and ensure that the three percent rule of reservation is implemented in the medical services recruitment in Tamil Nadu.
It has also asked for a status report on the actual percentage of disabled persons hired in medical services recruitments in the State.
But reservation is just one aspect that is being raised by differently abled medical practitioners. There is also a further aspect of discrimination that doctors are alleging. A disabled doctor who applies for the reserved posts must appear in front of a medical board which will certify that the handicap will not affect his or her performance on the job, in order to be appointed.
A senior government medical doctor who is disabled says, on condition of anonymity, “Already, only those with lower limb disabilities (up to a certain percentage) are allowed to even take up the MBBS course. To gain admission, they have to appear in front of a medical board which will certify the candidate based on disability norms specified by the Medical Council of India. Only if this certificate is given can a student even take up medicine.”
He argues that once they undergo this test, they should only be judged on their professional skills and not be subjected to further “humiliation” by appearing in front of another medical board to certify physical fitness with reference to disability, over and above what other candidates are subject to.
“The government must do away with the second appearance before the medical board for disabled persons; it is quite unnecessary. It was tough when I was forced to go through the process,” says a lady doctor serving in the districts currently.
Health officials said that the department would definitely examine the request, and try to work towards a discrimination-free recruitment process.