She was presenting the National Awards for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities at a function organized by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment here today. She said that the new scheme of skill development initiative must be adequately tailored to meet the needs of persons with disabilities, so that they acquire skills suited to them, as well as in demand, in the job market. Both government and the private sector will have to work hand in hand in this regard, the President stressed.
The President said that given the right environment and job selection, there is absolutely no doubt that a person with disability is in no way less capable than anybody else. "Though we have provisions for reservation in employment for the persons with disabilities in all establishments in the Government Sector, but the backlog of reserved vacancies for persons with disabilities, needs to be filled up through concerted action by all Government organizations" the President added.
Referring to the proposed new legislation which will replace the existing Persons with Disabilities Act of 1995, the President said that the requirements and the concerns of the disabled should be fully reflected in the new draft and expressed the hope that the Committee working on the legislation, comes up with a satisfactory and practical draft before long. The basic objective of the policies should be to make them self-reliant, the President said.
She said that besides a robust policy framework, we must have an efficient and effective delivery mechanism. The Central and especially State Governments must partner with Civil Society and the private sector, in their endeavor to create an inclusive society, the President said.
The President said that India was among the first countries to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which came into force in May, 2008 and this demonstrates country's resolve to move forward on the agenda to provide differently-abled citizens of our country with an environment that enables them to participate in the various activities of society and the nation.
The President said that it is absolutely essential that aids and appliances which help PwDs in mobility, communication and daily living, such as hearing devices, limb prosthesis, Braille writing equipment, wheelchairs, computer software etc should be made available to all persons with disabilities, at a reasonable cost.
We need to remove physical barriers that do not allow persons with disabilities to access various facilities and services; she stressed and added that in this age of Information Technology, it is also imperative to make technology accessible.
The President commended the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment as it became the first Central Ministry to make its website accessible to persons with disabilities since January last. "This is commendable and worthy of emulation", the President said and added that the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment should share the basic design and features with other Ministries and organizations so that others can follow suit.
Speaking on the occasion, the Union Minister of Social Justice & Empowerment, Shri Mukul Wasnik said that the International Day for the persons with disabilities should not only be a celebration, but an opportunity for us to pause and look both at what has been achieved, and what is still left to do. He said that the differently-abled people face so many challenges but despite these challenges, the Awardees have displayed great courage and resilience and inspire us for reaching the highest levels of human achievement.
Shri Wasnik said that India has been progressive in recognizing the rights of persons with disabilities. The National Policy for Persons with Disability recognizes that Persons with Disabilities are a valuable human resource for the country and seeks to create an environment that provides them equal opportunities, protection of their rights and full participation in society. The National Policy is backed by a legislation - Persons with Disabilities Act 1995. However, in order to harmonize the Act with the UNCRPD, the Government has constituted a committee to draft a new legislation, he said.
The Minister said that economic empowerment is the most important aspect in empowerment of persons with disabilities and therefore, the Government has been promoting employment of persons with disabilities through education and vocational training. Government is mandated to provide 3% reservation in employment to persons with disabilities. In the year 2008 the Government announced a scheme whereby the employers share towards Employees Provident Fund and Employees State Insurance Corporation for the first three years will be borne by the Government for employing persons with disabilities. "The scheme has not picked up so far but we will continue our efforts to follow up with the private sector", the Minister said.
Shri Wasnik informed that the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment proposes to address the needs of Persons with Hearing and Speech Impairment by establishing an Indian Sign Language Research and Training Center this year. The aim of the Center will be to promote the use and spread of Indian Sign Language in cooperation with native sign language users through research, teaching materials, curriculum development, outreach and awareness programs.
The Minister also informed that a high level Committee has been set up in October this year to make an assessment of the existing status of the seven National Institutes working under the Ministry and to recommend measures so as to make these Institutes centers of excellence. Another Task Force has been set up under the Director General, CSIR, to work out the details for the proposal of establishment of a National Center for Universal Design and Barrier-free Environment (NCUDBE).
In his Welcome address, the Minister of State in the Ministry, Shri D. Napolean said that the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment works in partnership with the State Governments, other Central Ministries and Voluntary Organizations for the empowerment of various disadvantaged groups, especially persons with disabilities. He said that the National Institutes set up under the Ministry cater to Manpower Development, Research & Rehabilitation of differently abled persons. Giving information about the nature of Awards, he said that way back in 1969, the National Awards was instituted with only two categories. In tune with the increasing need to encourage people working in different fields of disability, the number of awards has gradually increased to 63 National Awards in 13 different categories. National Awards for the "Accessible Website", is an indication of the Ministry's efforts to keep up with the changing times, Shri Napolean said.
The list of National Award Winners can be accessed on the following Link of the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment: socialjustice.nic.in/pdf/awardeelist10.pdf