Monday, 20 January 2014

Dubious tactics and unseemly haste

As a kid, you might have heard the song starting `Ten green bottles hanging on the wall' which goes on to descraibe how they were broken/destroyed one by one, till you finally get down to `One green bottle hanging on the wall' and you sort of despairingly hope that some divine providence will save at least this one. The lot of people with disabilities in India is beginning to look like a macabre deja vu of this song. First there was the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995 which spoke of the Promised Land where rights were protected and full participation in all aspects of life were promised. Years passed with no steps being taken to facilitate this `Full Participation'. Elsewhere, the whole world was waking to the crying need to remedy such affairs. Thus, in December 2006, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the UNCRPD (or the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities), and in October 2007, India became a signatory to this convention. Five years go by, and a new `Rights for People with Disabilities' (RPD) Bill is drafted, which already makes strikingly divergent strides from the perceptions of the UNCRPD : while the latter strove to be a policy instrument which was `cross-disability' and `cross-sectoral', the former brought in new terms such as `guardianship and legal capacity'  as well as drawing up an arbitrary list of conditions recognised as `being disabled', and this draft never became more than just a draft. (Already a few bottles down: even the number of letters in the acronym have come down from 6 to 3!) There were attempts to revive this in 2013, and no more; and with every new `step forward' at least one more green bottle fell off the wall.

And now there is a sudden resurgence of this RPD which started with the signature campaign in the social media (which I spoke about in my last post) asking people to sign a petition demanding that the Government table and pass this Bill at the earliest viable time - and with no indication of where a draft of this proposed Bill may be seen. This seems to be a closely guarded secret. To top it all, an individual, who has been identified by the Press (for reasons best known to themselves) as the go-to man for all issues concerning PwD, is flying down from Delhi to a special meeting at the end of this month to be held in Chennai (the one place where some PwD seem to be showing some sign of dissent), to solicit further support for the tabling and passing of this unseen bill (which may have -7 green bottles on the wall by the time it is passed).

If you had been led to believe that a certain piece of property promised to be a paradise on earth, and if the person trying to sell this `piece of Eden' came half way across the country to ask several people to buy in to this proposal, and would not even give you a chance to read the legal document you were signing, you would need to have your head examined if you signed it. It reminds me of a clip where you see a picture of Richard Nixon (post-Watergate) and hear a voice in the background saying `would you buy a used car from this man'?

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