Independent charge eludes Disabilities Commissioner

Two years after the Parliament passed the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, the state is yet to appoint an independent Commissioner for Disabilities, who is saddled with three other portfolios.

Commissioner for Disabilities Kumar Rahul is also the Secretary-cum-Director, Mining, and Secretary, Home Affairs, Justice and Jail. He was appointed in February. Before him, the post was vacant for several months.

Disability activists demand an independent Commissioner for Disabilities as they claim their grievances go unaddressed.

As per the 2011 Census, the state has 6.54 lakh persons with disabilities.

The state government is yet to notify policies to implement the 2016 Act.

Amarjit Singh Anand, a member of the Punjab State Advisory Board for Disabilities, said: “The Commissioner is pre-occupied with other portfolios at the cost of the disability sector. Until the policies for the disabled are notified, the Act can’t be implemented. The state needs an independent Commissioner for Disabilities for that.”

He cited a few unaddressed issues: non-disbursal of pension for disabled persons for more than six months and no meetings of the advisory board ever since the Congress came to power. “In the name of a meeting, the advisory board had organised an introductory session with disability activists,” Anand said.

Disability activist Vivek Joshi said, “I had sent repeated complaints to the Commissioner on harassment of disabled persons, but none was addressed. Every time we call, he is busy or in a meeting. I complained about disability students not allowed to appear for their exams and mistreatment meted out to me by Air India staff. This is not all. The 2011 Census data has not been revised.”

Minister for Social Security Aruna Chaudhary said, “Several officials have been sent to Chhattisgarh for the Assembly elections. Some of them will return on December 17, after which policy issues of the disability sector will be taken up. The state will get an independent Commissioner for Disability within a few months. This will be done before the code of conduct for the 2019 General Election is enforced. Anganwari workers will be deployed to collect data on persons with disabilities.”

Commissioner for Disabilities Kumar Rahul dismissed the view that the additional portfolios were affecting his work. “I have been regularly responding to grievances. As for students not allowed to take the exam, we did intervene, but we will look into the matter as to why the issue was not addressed. Other issues will be addressed once the policy is notified. The government is working on that.”