This year’s budget has been no different as far as the disabled community is concerned. They continue to be condemned to the margins and neglected, high sounding rhetoric like “inclusive India” notwithstanding.
In comparison to the previous year, there is merely a 1% increase. However, it needs to be underlined that the amount allotted for 2022– 2023 was underutilized by Rs. 196 crore.
It is disturbing that the allocations for the Scheme for Implementation of the (Rights of) Persons with Disabilities Act has been severely reduced by 90 crores, from Rs. 240.39 (BE) last year to Rs. 150 crore this year, despite the mandates of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, which the government has miserably failed to implement.
It is the woefully inadequate allocation that is in the main responsible for the failure in implementing the provisions of accessibility within a span of five years as mandated by the RPD Act. Sadly, even support for important autonomous bodies established by Acts of Parliament that cater to persons with disabilities, like the National Trust and the Rehabilitation Council of India, remains the same.
Despite the devastating effects of the pandemic, the government has refused to heed the demand for free and universal health coverage for all disabled; removing the income criteria in the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana for persons with disabilities as also making a substantial increase in allocations towards mental health programmes.
The allocations for the Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme remain unchanged at Rs. 290 crore as compared to last year. The government has refused to enhance both the amount and the coverage of the pension.
The amount has remained unchanged at Rs. 300 for more than a decade and covers a mere 3.8 per cent of the disabled population identified by the 2011 census. One has to have a disability of 80 per cent and above and has to fall under the BPL category to avail the benefit of this scheme.
In the first budget of Amrit Kaal, except for promise of a mission to eliminate sickle cell anaemia, there is nothing to cheer about
Shockingly, allocation to MNREGS has been further cut by Rs. 13,000 crore this year. Compared to 2021-22 MNREGS allocations have been by reduced by nearly 40,000 crores (it was reduced by 25,000 crores last year).
And this comes at a time when there has been a heavy reliance on schemes like the MNREGS in the countryside during the pandemic, which has also benefitted the disabled population in the rural areas. Cut in allocations for PM Poshan Yojana, ICDS programmes and food subsides — will all adversely impact the disabled also.
Given the shrinkage of job opportunities in the public sector, to tide over the employment crisis it was incumbent that incentives/disincentives for employing/not employing disabled persons in the private sector were introduced. But this was not to be so.
In the first budget of the Amrit Kaal, except for the promise to launch a mission to eliminate sickle cell anaemia (recognised as a disability under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act) by 2024 and screen over 7 crore people in the tribal areas, there is nothing to cheer about for the disabled population.
They continue to be neglected, disregarded and condemned. It is not surprising that in the “inclusive development” guided by Saptarishi that the finance minister waxed eloquent, there was just one casual reference to “divyangjan”.
The urges all the state affiliates of National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled and other disability rights organizations to declare their staunch opposition to the budget’s regressive aspects.
*General secretary, National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled