The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has published its findings on India which it adopted during the 22nd Session of the Working Group of the Committee in September 2019.
The recommendations of the Committee include that all laws must be amended to align them with UN-CRPD(Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities) – this includes amending Article 15 of the Indian Constitution to specifically mention disability as a ground of discrimination.
The Committee was extremely appreciative of the Indian Government’s efforts to recognize and enforce rights of persons with disabilities, ensure protection from discrimination on the basis of disability and measures taken to make the electoral processes accessible through the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act.
It also took cognizance of the separate Department for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, that had been created in 2012., as also the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled.
However, its recommendations were in spirit with the “nothing about us without us’ slogan that is almost an anthem in the global disability sector.
Key recommendations to the Government of India include:
Absence of measures to combat multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities including women, children and elderly and those from scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, Dalits and Adivasi, persons with disabilities living with HIV/AIDS, indigenous persons with disabilities, those belonging to ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons with disabilities etc.
To repeal the use of derogatory or controversial terminology like ‘Divyangjan’, ‘unsound mind’, ‘retarded’, ‘leper’ and ‘lunatic’ from Government policies and documents
A shift from the medical model of disability to the rights-based model and simultaneous removal of environmental and attitudinal barriers that prevent inclusion and equality. For e.g.; accessibility of transportation services, including transport concessions and licenses, accessibility of information and acceleration of the implementation of the barrier-free buildings.
Faster implementation of the accessibility provisions under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 by taking a cross-sectoral approach, requiring all ministries engaged in public infrastructure to include accessibility in all planning and implementation processes with a time frame, budget and monitoring and evaluation to improve accessibility, especially in rural areas- and involving persons with disabilities in the same.
In particular, the Committee focused on the discriminatory laws related to persons affected by leprosy in India.
Commenting on this CRPD monitoring process, Arman Ali, Executive Director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), who attended the meeting as co-convener of the United National Coalition on the CRPD says “The emphasis of the Government, during the briefing, was more on the policy framework laid out in the RPWD Act and less on the implementation mechanisms. The concluding observations are a great support to us as we push for implementation of the Act and we are looking forward to engaging with the Government and civil society as we plan the way forward to address the observations.”
The committee also emphasized that Census 2021 must generate authentic disaggregated data on PwDs for India and that an autonomous nodal agency like the NHRC could be given the responsibility of monitoring implementation of the CRPD.
ABOUT THE COMMITTEE
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is composed of 18 international independent experts, who monitor implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the findings or Concluding Observations, as they are also called, cover how India is doing with regard to the rights of persons with disabilities, detailing positive developments, main areas of concern, and recommendations for action and the Government has time until November 2025 to respond to these observations.