At the very beginning, let me confirm that no society can have perfect gender equality and it is not possible to achieve equality in any society. These two articles I have written earlier will help you understand the same –
- The Equality Fallacy – Why Supreme Court Should be Closed First
- Why Kidbutz Feminists Rejected Equality
Today, I am going to take the cause of handicapped or differently-abled people and show you how our policies are made without keeping in mind the reality. In fact, I am going to show you why the census is a futile exercise and how our policies only take us away from reality. As long as such screwed up perspective about equality exists, there is no way we can achieve equality.
If you ever thought that the surveys done by government agencies help the government in drafting accurate and beneficial policies for the welfare of the people concerned, think again. Because what I am going to show you is just the opposite. Government surveys like the census have no meaningful attribution to drafting policies. If your belief system is shaken and if you are thinking that no government can actually afford to waste such a big money on an important activity like census and finally not draft policies accordingly and if you think this can’t be true, hold on, as I am just going to shake your entire belief system, post which even you will think that census is more or less a useless activity.
Reservation for The Disabled
First of all, let me clarify that even though I am against reservation of any kind, I am in favour of sustained reservation for people with disabilities. I believe that this is the only way to uplift their status in society and bring them to the mainstream. We should not leave them alone and in this matter, I am with everyone who suggests a reservation for them but not 4% (existing) or 5% (demanded) as many are demanding today. I want 2% reservation for them because Divyang population is 2% of entire population (26,814,994 in a total population of 1,210,854,977). We also need to understand that this world created by us so-called ‘normal’ people are not friendly for them. So, we need to create more facilities for differently-abled to bring them to mainstream society.
Census Data on Disabled
So, you see that demand of 4% or 5% reservation for Divyang people has no basis. Certainly not substantiated by the census. But what I am going to show today is even deeper and wider. For that, we need to first see the census data of differently-abled people –
Above table based on the census report of the differently-abled population, tells you the number of people in a particular category. In all categories, you find that the number of males is more than that of females. When we consider the age-group wise number of disabled people, we see that in some categories in more than 60 years age group, the number is more for women. This may simply because of the fact women live longer than men. However, if we consider any disability, the number of males is always higher.
Acts and Policies for Divyang People
Now, let’s look at the various policies made by the govt. for the welfare of differently-abled people.
National Policy for Women
First, let’s take a look at what the National Policy for Women stated,
There are two very specific welfare programs for differently-abled women in this policy.
First, goes like this –
“Identification of differently abled women through support of family, community, schools etc. and other stakeholders will be promoted along with family counselling and education to enable them to assist their differently abled members. Care-giver support programs for people with disabilities will be planned and made available for example, at the community, panchayat or municipal level. Special provisions under various rural and urban livelihood schemes for women with different forms of disabilities will be made.” (emphasis added).
So, this policy talks about the identification of such women through various methods. Why the existing methods are not enough? This ‘identification’ seems more like identifying more victims forcefully when none exists. Like we have seen in domestic violence cases. The way victims are identified today, that the real abusers have actually become victims. The counselling, support system etc. the policy talks about seems more like brainwashing techniques into making them believe that they are divyang people when in reality they are not. As always, the ‘special provisions’ mentioned here also scares us as there seems to be no end to these.
Another provision of this policy says –
“There is need for effective implementation of The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 to ensure that all provisions of the Act are benefiting differently abled girls and women. To prevent violence and sexual exploitation of the differently abled, focussed advocacy and sensitisation of various stakeholders such as law enforcement, judiciary, panchayats will be undertaken”. (emphasis added).
So, in this provision, the policy says, that all provisions of The Persons with Disabilities Act shall benefit women. Also, when you know that ‘equal’ opportunity in all govt. policies actually mean ‘equity’ and is used to fool you with the wrong use of English, you know that the equal opportunities also bring endless gender bias and sexism for differently-abled males.
The Persons With Disabilities Act, 2016
At this juncture, it is also important to understand what the Persons with Disabilities Act actually says. In 2016, an amended act was passed and we shall discuss only that. This act has some specific provisions for women already. These are –
- Support to women with a disability for livelihood and for the upbringing of their children;
- Sexual and reproductive healthcare especially for women with a disability;
- 5% reservation in allotment of agricultural land and housing in all relevant schemes and development programmes, with appropriate priority to women with benchmark disabilities;
- 5% reservation in all poverty alleviation and various developmental schemes with priority to women with benchmark disabilities.
From point 1 above, we understand that if a differently-abled male father wants to rear his child alone, he will not be given support for his livelihood and for the upbringing of his children. So, what if a man with a disability has a normal able-bodied wife. If the man is the sole breadwinner, as the case in many households even today, how will that family survive? Why should that man be forced to sweat it out when another woman may be getting those benefits just for being a woman?
From point 2 we understand that sexual and reproductive healthcare benefits are not important for males. But the Census data shows that it should have been more important for males –
Census data shows that in the age group of 0-14 years disabled people, there are 7437519 males and 5304984 females. Number of males is ~40% more compared to that of females.
As the number of Differently Abled, Divyang males in the 15-59 age group is 40% more than that of Divyang women. If we remove people with mental and multiple disabilities as they may not be capable of raising children, we find this –
The difference remains approximately the same. The number of males in these chosen categories is 40% more compared to that of women. So, the question remains, is the Census data important at all in formulating our policies?
Points 3 and 4 above tells us about the priority given to women for land distribution, housing schemes, and various poverty alleviation schemes. Questions are when men are still the breadwinner of the house when these women are dependents on some men, why is this even an option? If this is an option, why are men still considered to take care of such women?
If you are thinking that these women don’t get married or are prone to violence by their husbands and family members and hence such biased policies will help to give them much needed financial security, you may be wrong there as well. If these women are not getting married, why the same act wants to focus on women’s sexual well-being? Also, there is no guarantee that her able-bodied relatives will still not exploit her despite her getting such benefits. This also does not mean that able-bodied family members of divyang males can’t exploit such males. So, when these males are driven to poverty, where is there a safety net? We also understand from the census data that the probability of men being throw to poverty is more (simply because their number is more) compared to women, but the policy is created for women. The relevance or need of census again comes under question as policies are not drafted according to the need of the society.
Under various skill development programs created as a result of this Act, there is already 30% reservation for women.
The National Trust Act, 1999
Under different rules of this Act, women get preferential treatment while setting up residential hostels and residential homes for persons with disability. So, you will find more residential homes and hostels for physically challenged women than physically challenged males. Even when there are 40% of males who may need these facilities and care, they are only left to be on the streets.
The Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992
Thankfully this act that was drafted way back in 1992 when feminism was not that prominent, so I did not notice any bias. However, that may also be on the feminist agenda in the days to come.
Reservation in Scholarships and Awards
There are different forms of reservation for women with a disability under different scholarship schemes.
- 6 out of 20 scholarships under the National Overseas Scholarship for Students with Disabilities are reserved for women. So, at least 30% of these scholarships will go to women.
- 50% of Pre-matric and Post-Matric scholarships are reserved for women. We understand this bias when we know the number of females with disability in 0-14 years age group is 80% of that of the number of males or roughly 44% of the overall population that qualifies for such scholarship.
- 30% reservation for women for the scholarships from Trust funds.
Shri Krishna Pal Gurjar, Hon. Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment told Lok Sabha on 24th February 2015 about those reservations.
There is a govt. scheme to give awards to the employers and employees for empowering differently-abled persons. The policy in section 2.2 of scope clearly states that preference will be given to the placements of women with disabilities. Also, this section specifically states that women can send their own nominations for national awards (don’t laugh please). So, even if such differently-abled women do not do anything, they may be awarded a national award (reason can be thought out later :).
In each category (total 10) of disability, there is one primary award and one auxiliary award (of less value) is to be given. 7 out of these 10 awards are reserved for women.
Other than these, best employer, best placement officer, best individual and institution, best role model etc. are also there and believe it or not all these categories have a reservation for women candidates. So, a male placement officer may do excellent in placing divyang people but will still not get the award because some woman placement officer would have done something.
One more concerning cause is all these awards specifically state that preference will be given to the placement of women candidates when in reality males are 40% more and need more employment this bias goes against all sane thoughts.
Divyang Women Exempt from Coming to Police Station
2013 Verma panel recommended that disabled women be exempt from coming to the police station. Also, the committee recommends a bunch of steps to ease things for differently-abled women. No such step was ever taken by the judiciary for males who are differently-abled.
First Country Report on Disabilities
As a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities, India has to submit a report from time to time on the measures taken for the advancement of differently-abled persons in the country. In its 2015 submission, the gender bias achieved against disabled males were evident. Here are a few –
- Even though National Policy for PwDs was drafted in 2006 before India’s endorsement of UNCRPD, provisions there are modified and special programs for education, vocational training, employment, and other rehabilitation services to women with disabilities were designed.
- The Policy for PwDs envisages on giving financial support to women with disabilities so that they may hire services to look after their children. This bias affects women as well. So, a differently-abled man who may be the sole breadwinner for his family, don’t get this benefit, and his wife may need to work as a domestic labourer in others house to hire such services.
- Under different welfare schemes only for women, this report states provisions made in the Twelfth Planning Commission Report. Such benefits extend but not limited to, Vocational training and assured employment for women, special rehabilitation services along with care provisions, provision for light work and special wage calculation under MNREGA scheme, Specific health focus for women etc. Question arises, do handicapped men not need care provisions or special wages?
- 1% rebate for disabled women for all National Scheduled Caste Finance Development Corporation (NSFDC) schemes.
- Special 2% rebate for disabled women for all schemes of National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC).
- 25% budgetary allocation earmarked for women with disability un ADIP scheme.
- Several vocational rehabilitation centers only for women.
Other than all these programs handicapped women also enjoy other benefits that any other woman enjoys. Divyang males, however, do not get all these. If you read through the report, you will see even children do not get so many benefits that women get.
So, you see it is not possible to achieve gender equality. Hope now you understand that the government policies are drafted randomly very often to keep the vote bank politics in mind and is farther from the actual need. It’s like banning crackers on Diwali night to control pollution when round the year everyone uses their personal cars and air-condition machines. To bring any effective change in society seems to be the last priority of such measures. Mostly these seem to be for appeasement of the international community. In this light, the need for any survey and continuing with the tradition of the census itself comes under question. Why waste money on the census when the data is of no use. Let’s stop it like many other traditions. What do you say?