The National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People, India’s apex body representing the rights and interests of persons with disabilities-was invited by Department of Social Welfare, Sikkim government to organise a sensitisation program on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPWD Act) 2016 and its provisions for the line departments of the organisation. In total, 18 departments of the Sikkim government were part of it. 

The NCPEDP is the country’s premier cross-disability, not-for-profit organisation working as an interface between Government, Industry, International Agencies and the Voluntary Sector towards empowerment of persons with disabilities. With the objective to encourage the employment of disabled people, increase public awareness on the issue of disability, empower disabled people with knowledge, information and opportunities and ensure easy and convenient access to all public places, the organization works on six core principles, namely: 

1) Education; 2) Employment; 3) Accessibility; 4) Legislation/Policy; 5)Awareness/Communication, and 6) Youth. 

It has played a significant role in the demand for new legislation to replace the earlier Persons with Disabilities Act of 1995 and has been working ever since its enactment on creating awareness among different stakeholders on the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. 

However, there is a consensus that the legislative vision of the Act of 2016 has been unable to transition into reality. Disability being a state subject, the implementation remains subject to the political will of the state government. The lack of implementation was also stressed by the Bombay High Court stating that there exists a general lack of sensitivity towards the rights persons of disabilities and therefore there is a need that awareness is created among the officials of the State.

In order to take the mandate of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act forward, NCPEDP is going across states to conduct sensitization programme for government officials and secure better implementation of the Act. NCPEDP in partnership with the Government of Sikkim and with the support of the American India Foundation is conducting a sensitization programme on 13th and 14th March 2020.  

“In 2019, the Bombay High Court had asked the Maharashtra government to conduct compulsory awareness and training sessions for its officials on legal rights of differently-abled persons in line with the RPWD Act 2019. Post this development, we wrote to the Chief Secretaries of all states reiterating the provisions of the order and offering our support for conducting such training and received a positive response from states such as Sikkim, Nagaland, Lakshadweep and Arunachal Pradesh. We are thankful to the Sikkim government for its support,” said Arman Ali, executive director, NCPEDP. 

According to the 76th round of the NSO survey conducted between July and December 2018, Sikkim has 2.7 per cent male population and 2.4% of the female population in rural areas; while in urban areas, the population is 1.5% and 1% for men and women respectively. 

The seminar was attended by a cohort of more than 60 people with the presence of Shri Hem Kr. Chettri, SCS, Secretary, Social Justice and Welfare department and Mrs Rohini Pradhan, Joint Secretary, Social Welfare Department, Government of Sikkim. NGOs, special educators and Sikkim’s disability diaspora were part of the event. 

Emphasising the need for coordination between departments, Mrs Rohini Pradhan said, “We are still way behind in the implementation of the RPWD act! it must be implemented not just in letter but also in spirit and that will be possible only when all departments converge and work together to realise this!” 

The disability ecosystem was represented by Ms Amvalika Senapati of Shishu Sarothi, and Ms Rati Misra of NCPEDP. 

Rati Misra of NCPEDP added, “We are delighted to see the proactive steps the Sikkim Government is taking to ensure the inclusion of persons with disabilities. The Act remains a piece of paper unless all stakeholders come together to collaborate and push for its implementation. We look forward to working closely with the Department of Social Justice and Welfare, Sikkim in the coming days and we wish all other states would also emulate this action of creating awareness about the RPWD Act and its provisions among their officials and key decisions makers!”

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