4% reservation of PWDs government jobs yet to be fully implemented in Sikkim, recognition long overdue
Gandhi’s Vision for Indian society was ‘sarvodaya through antyodaya’, meaning equal rights and opportunities for every individual to live with dignity irrespective of their physical limitations where they are visually impaired, physically handicapped, or suffering from a mental condition.
Sikkim celebrated the International Day of Persons With Disabilities on 3rd December 2020 as a mark of recognition of persons living with disabilities. According to the 2011 census, about 2.5% of the population (around 18,000 persons) in Sikkim had a disability. Around 44% of the persons with disabilities in Sikkim had a disability certificate at the time of this census. Sikkim has only one District Disability Rehabilitation Centre (DDRC) and is based in Gangtok.
On 8th December, District Disability Rehabilitation Centre (DDRC), South Sikkim organised Aids and Appliances Distribution Program under the ADIP scheme of the Ministry of Social Justice and Welfare. Anjeeta Rajalim, Additional Political Secretary to HCM was invited as the Chief Guest of the event, joined by Joint Commissioner M.B Chettri, Assistant Commissioner P.N Pradhan, Social welfare officer (South) Nakul Rawat.
The Chief Guest spoke about the aims and objective of the program which is to distribute aids and hear suggestions from PWDs. She mentioned about State government schemes such as CM's Disability pension Scheme and cash incentive for disabled Students topping the board exams.
But the journey for giving recognition and dignity has been long overdue and still under process.
It was the United Nations Convention for Persons With Disabilities adopted in 2006 which made an addition to previous international conventions to come up as a framework document, which would bring in a change in the attitude and approach to Persons With Disabilities(PWD), seeing them not merely as objects of charity, medical treatment and social protection, but as active members of the society who have the right to make decisions based on free and informed consent.
Rights of Persons With Disabilities Act, 2016 which is an updation from the 1995 Act has brought about changes such as extending the categories of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) from 7 to over 21 categories including - Physical Disability, Locomotor Disability, Leprosy Cured Person, Cerebral Palsy, Dwarfism, Muscular Dystrophy, Acid Attack Victims, Visual Impairment, Blindness, Low Vision, Hearing Impairment, Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Speech and Language Disability, Intellectual Disability, Specific Learning Disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Mental Mental Illness.
It also has provisions for 4% reservation in government jobs (including 1% for benchmark disability) and 5% for reservation in higher education. This is a measure to bring PWDs into the mainstream as working-class people but almost even after five years of its enactment and call for implementation, the question looms over its application in Sikkim.
Bal Bahadur Subba, a founding member of the Sikkim Disability Community says that there has been an improvement in terms of representation of their community in the government jobs sector. However, he states that the 4% reservation is yet to be fully implemented, expressing scepticism over the 1% benchmark reservation within the 4 % reservation of PWDs. He expects a reservation of 5% for higher education which is yet to be implemented.
He also feels there should not be uniformity in treating PWDs as every disability has their own requirements and requires different modus operandi for its redressal.
Sonam Diki Bhutia, another member of the SDC feels the need for better coordination with other disabilities as it would create a better forum to voice their concerns. The SDC regularly brings together various NGOs to collaborate
Bhutia who recently completed her Masters, says that disabled-friendly infrastructure under the Accessible India Campaign is yet to find its ground in Sikkim but is hopeful with the assurance given by officials of the SJWD in an event with Heads of Department from different sectors being instructed to come with a roadmap on this.
People with severe mental illnesses are also under the category of disability. They are more vulnerable as they have lesser thinking and perceiving ability, making them even more disabled among the PWDs.
The Spastics Society of Sikkim established in 1997 is a government registered organization affiliated to Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy, Kolkata. For the last 16 years, the institute has been making striking advances in building capacities to empower persons with mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism and multiple disabilities.
Dr B. P. Dhakal, Founder General Secretary of SSS mentions that the workshops undertaken by their organisation bring in the participation of doctors, lawyers, teachers, specialist and health workers. In view of securing the property rights of intellectually disabled persons, a three-member local level committee consisting of the District Collector (ex officio), a PWD and a representative of an NGO (such as National Trust Institute).
He expressed the need for introducing schemes such as Gharunda Scheme in Sikkim which if implemented would take measures such as the implementation of skill development for PWDs.
Dr Dhakal shared success stories of their members, who he considers his children, in their organisation who have taken part in various national and international events such as the Shanghai Special Olympics where one of their members received a Gold medal and a cash prize of ₹5 lakh from the government
Another member was awarded a Silver medal at called Alpine Skiing, which is a high altitude skiing event that allows the participation of visually and physically disabled persons. However, he contends that there should be no disparity in cash prize announced to any person disabled or not who wins a medal at the Olympics.
“The challenges pertaining to members of the PWD community in the hilly regions are due to tougher terrains. I feel that there is a need for measures to ensure holistic, need-based and programmed measures. Home-based education should be streamlined for disabled and taking the help Of Anganwadi and ASHA workers in providing cooked meals and nutritional support. The role of NGOs gets important here thus we need the government’s support on this”, says Dhakal.
“I hope to revive our organisation soon after the pandemic comes to a halt”.
Awareness and acceptance for disabled folks are at a nascent stage but there is a slow tread towards proper inclusivity until we celebrate the next International Day of Disabled Persons.
By Karma Lendup Sherpa.
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