NEW DELHI: Disability rights groups on Friday expressed dismay over the inordinate delay in introducing the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill in Parliament even after it was approved by the Cabinet a few days ago.
Activists of the Disabled Rights Group (DRG) and the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NRPD) said they will approach major political parties to convince them to introduce the Bill when Parliament reconvenes.
"Parliament session will be convened to pass the Vote on Account in January and February. This important piece of legislation must also be taken up by both, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha for enactment," NPRD secretary Muralidharan said.
DRG convener Javed Abidi said, "We will be approaching all major political parties to garner support for this as we genuinely believe that the cause of disability is a totally non-partisan and non-political issue."
Besides offering a comprehensive definition of disability, the legislation which will replace the Persons with Disability (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995, provides for an increase in the quota for persons with disabilities from three per cent to five per cent in government jobs.
It also makes private companies accountable for creating a disabled-friendly environment.
As a mark of protest, disability rights activists will hold candle-light vigils in various parts of the country on December 31, the members said. In Delhi, the vigil will be held outside the Vice President's House as he is the chairman of Rajya Sabha, they said.
With India ratifying the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2007, it was expected that all the four disability-specific legislations -- the Mental Health Act 1987, Rehabilitation Council of India Act 1992, Persons with Disability (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 and the National Trust Act 1999 -- would be harmonised with the provisions of the UNCRPD.
However, while the Mental Health Care Bill has been introduced in Parliament, the bill replacing the Persons with Disabilities Act of 1995 is yet to be introduced.
Though the process of drafting the new law started over four years back and has gone through various stages, the delay in introducing this legislation is inexplicable, Abidi said.
More than a year has passed since the new draft of the proposed bill was uploaded on the website of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in September 2012.
The Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment had given an assurance that the bill would be introduced in the winter session of Parliament. The Union Cabinet gave its approval to the draft bill on December 12. However, the abrupt end of the Parliament session on December 18 prevented the bill from being tabled.