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Govt. advisory board on disability not re-constituted since Nov. 2020 – Mrit News

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Officials say it is scheduled to meet on June 24 to decide on future of Accessible India Campaign

Officials say it is scheduled to meet on June 24 to decide on future of Accessible India Campaign

The Central Advisory Board on Disability, which is mandated to meet every six months under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, has not been re-constituted since the previous board’s three-year term ended in November 2020, something that has been flagged by activists.

On Monday, at a press conference to discuss the “achievements” of the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry in the eight years of the Narendra Modi government, SJ&E Minister Virendra Kumar did not respond to a question about the targets of the Accessible India Campaign, whose deadline is set to end in June. Instead, the Secretary of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Anjali Bhawra, replied that the CAB would hold a meeting on June 24 where the achievements of the Centre and the States would be discussed. Ms. Bhawra did not comment on whether the deadline would be extended.

However, as on Tuesday, the CAB had not been re-constituted but the process was on, according to DEPwD officials who requested not to be named. The government had appointed the CAB on November 8, 2017, naming government officials and nominated members.

The CAB, which has a three-year tenure, is supposed to function as the “national-level consultative and advisory body on disability matters”, according to the Act. The panel is meant to “facilitate the continuous evolution of a comprehensive policy for the empowerment of persons with disabilities and the full enjoyment of rights”, the Act says.

Satendra Singh, a physician and disability rights activist, said he had written to the Ministry in December 2021 and again in May this year reminding them about the re-constitution of the CAB. Dr. Singh said the only response he received was the one informing him that his email had been forwarded to the officer concerned.

“CAB is the highest policy making body for disability issues. It was need of the hour during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the government did not reconstitute it. It’s strange to see the Ministry giving COVID as an excuse for non-constitution as the entire world switched to remote meetings as reasonable accommodation. The CAB is needed the most as we didn’t have a permanent Chief Commissioner for PwD, Rehabilitation Council of India and National Trust chairpersons,” Dr. Singh said.

Muralidharan, the general secretary of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled, said the delay in re-constituting the CAB “revealed the lack of seriousness” on the part of the government.

“This government has been high on rhetoric and less on delivery. This has been more than exposed by the missing of targets year after year in the flagship Accessible India Campaign. Merely constituting the CAB is also not enough. It has to meet regularly and have meaningful discussions. In the current format, the CAB is heavily loaded by bureaucrats and officials and has very minuscule representation from people with disabilities and their organisations. In any case, it is the chosen few who will make it to the board,” he said.

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