India fails to pass major disability rights bill

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Disability Rights Bill Stalled

Despite nearly three weeks of protests, the Indian Parliament adjourned from its winter session February 19 without passing a closely watched Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill.

On February 3, thousands of demonstrators converged in New Delhi to urge approval of the measure, which, if passed, would represent the largest overhaul of the country’s disability protections since 1995. Although protests continued throughout the sessions, the Parliament failed to vote on the bill.

“We had met leaders across political parties, including Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Sitaram Yechury. All of them assured us of their support,” Javed Abidi, of Disabled Rights Group, told the Times of India. “But now it seems they stabbed us on our back.”

The bill, modeled after the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, would expand the scope of people covered by the country’s disability laws, from 7 to 19 categories.

The federal government would also be required to expand the proportion of people with disabilities in its workforce from a minimum of three to five percent. The bill would also require a quota of places be reserved for people with disabilities in higher educational institutions.

“The bill would have benefitted about 70 million disabled people in the country,” Abidi said. “For the first time, this bill would have opened up jobs and education for people with mental disabilities and multiple disabilities.”