The Madras High Court on Monday directed the State government to ensure that the visually challenged were not put to any hardship and subjected to unnecessary formalities just because the monthly pension scheme for them was being implemented through the Social Welfare Department and not the department for the welfare of the differently abled.
Acting Chief Justice M. Duraiswamy and Justice Sunder Mohan issued the direction while disposing of a public interest litigation petition filed by Nethrodaya, a non-governmental organisation working for the welfare of the differently abled, in 2018 seeking a direction to shift the pension scheme form the Social Welfare Department on the ground of hardship.
Though the petitioner organisation had also sought another direction to increase the quantum of pension given to the visually challenged from ₹1,000 to ₹1,500 (now increased to ₹2,000) as given to the other differently abled people who were incapable of any employment, the Bench refused to issue such a direction.
The judges agreed with Additional Advocate General S. Silambanan that the visually challenged could not be equated with those suffering from muscular dystrophy, leprosy and severe locomotor disability since the latter form a separate class due to their inability to get employed and require additional financial assistance from the State.
They also recorded the submission of the State government that the Centre provides only ₹300 per month for the visually challenged under the Indira Gandhi National Disability Scheme which covers only 64,045 beneficiaries. However, the State government gives ₹700 more and had also increased the cover to 3,55,897 beneficiaries.
Apart from the monthly pension, the visually challenged were also entitled to unemployment allowance of ₹600 a month if they had studied up to Class X, ₹750 for those who had completed Class XII and ₹1,000 for the graduates. They were also given travel concession in government buses and a host of other benefits, the AAG said.
However, when the petitioner’s counsel A.M. Venkatakrishnan pointed out that there were many visually challenged people who were unemployable due to other sickness, infirmity or old age, the judges directed to consider the request for treating such persons on a par with those receiving a monthly pension of ₹2,000.