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Interview of the Month (2)

Secretary, Disabilities Affairs
Ministry of Social Justice  & Empowerment, Government of India

Disability is a complex issue and requires a multi-dimensional strategy involving multiple agencies to address the core concerns of the sector. As per Census 2011, the number of Persons with Disabilities is about 2.68 crore. The Government alone will not be in a position to meet the requirement of the sector. Thus, the corporate sector would have to play a bigger role to provide support for disability sector while discharging their social sector responsibility.

Bachelor of Arts, Masters in Political Science, Masters in Rural Social Development and PG Diploma in Child Rights & Law 
In career span of more than 37 years he has handled important position in various department like Secretary, Department of Health & Family Welfare, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, Department of AIDS Control Ministry of Health & F.W. Govt. of India and Principal Secretary to Governor, Govt. of U.P.
He has also written several publications and part of international delegation to major countries of the world, one of his major publications on “Accountability and Responsiveness of Rural Development Administration and NGOs, with special reference to India” – Studies, Vol. 2:11, 1997, published by the Centre for Development Studies, U.P. Academy of Administration is widely acclaimed.

How do you visualise the future of the Department?

I am very positive about the future of the Department. Since the creation of the Department in May, 2012, we have been able to coordinate with all stakeholders including all Central Ministries/Departments and the State Governments in a better way to promote empowerment of Persons with Disabilities. The Department is able to spearhead its policies and ensure its implementation at the grass root level in a better manner. Some of the State Governments such as Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have now dedicated Departments for the empowerment of Persons with Disabilities. I strongly believe that the Department in the coming years will play a vital role in establishing a meaningful mechanism for the empowerment of Persons with Disabilities and mainstreaming them in society.

What are the challenges, you perceive to be faced to transform the vision into reality?

Disability is a complex issue and requires a multi-dimensional strategy involving multiple agencies to address the core concerns of the sector. Some of the key challenges in the sector are diverse and disaggregated population, disproportional poverty and marginalisation, lack of accessibility, adequate infrastructure and rehabilitation services, discrimination in education and employment, lack of awareness and low priority of the sector.

Interview of the Month (1)The agencies involved in supporting disability affairs are running since decades. Has there been any impact assessment of their performance conducted, to identify areas of improvement, as the Department is committed to empower the Disability Domain in India?

Reviewing of schemes and programmes of the Department as well as its subsidiary organisations is a continuous process. Based on such review exercises, the Department has been taking remedial measures to improve the performance of the scheme/programme/institution to meet the desired objective. For example, all the schemes of the National Trust are being radically overhauled by a professional agency adopting  a participatory approach.

What are the new or re-designed initiatives, the Department is initiating, which need to be known to all the stake holders?

Some of the major initiatives taken by the Department since its inception are
Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014 was introduced in RajyaSabha on 07 February 2014 which inter-alia aims at providing more rights and entitlements to the PWDS.
Modern and contemporary aids and assistive devices included in the revised ADIP scheme.
Thrust on awareness generation through events and conferences.

National Action Plan launched for skill development to increase employability of  PWDS
Promoting an accessibility campaign to create barrier free environment for Persons with Disabilities.
Creation of a National Database and Universal ID card to all Persons with Disabilities.
Action initiated to set up National Institute of Inclusive and Universal Design, Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre and National Institute of Mental Health Rehabilitation.
Schemes for setting up of Centre of Disability Sports, Braille Press and Research and Development in Disability sector have been launched.
New Scholarship schemes, such as Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship scheme for Persons with Disabilities, post-matric and pre-matric schemes, have also been launched.

What is your assessment of the support provided by the corporate bodies as their CSR activity for Disability Sector?

As per Census 2011, the number of Persons with Disabilities is about 2.68 crore which include 7 categories of disabilities. Once the new Bill is enacted the categories of Disabilities will go up to 19 and thus the number of Persons with Disabilities will be quite high. The Government alone will not be in a position to meet the requirement of the sector. Thus, the corporate sector would have to play a bigger role to provide financial assistance for disability sector while discharging their social sector responsibility. At this moment the fund flow for disability sector is minimal and it requires to be increased manifold. The Disability sector should be treated as a priority sector for CSR funding.
The Department has launched a scheme for cochlear implants wherein the Government subsidises the entire amount which comes to Rs.6 lakh for each implant.  Due to funds constraints, we have limited our target to 500 whereas the requirement is as high as approximately 20,000 across the country.  And since we are talking CSR here, there is a unique opportunity for all CSR providers to sponsor cochlear implant candidates all they have to do is to get in touch with the Managing Director, Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO).  It is unfair to expect Government, with its limited resources, to meet the entire demand for cochlear implants in the country.  I appeal to all CSR providers to give a new life to all those unfortunates who are deprived due to hearing loss from experiencing the world in all its subtlety and grandeur.

Corporate Houses, primarily the Public Sector, has already developed a fancy for conducting camps for distributing Aids & Appliances to the Disabled, under their CSR, it seems, the camp format matches with these corporate’s style of managing CSR. Can similar programmes be designed by the Department of Disability Affairs, to generate awareness among the masses under CSR of the Corporate India?

The Department has a separate scheme on its own to generate awareness among the masses about the Rights and Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.  The corporate sector needs to earmark certain percentage of their CSR funding for awareness generation among PWDS their parents and all stakeholders in the Disability Sector.

How do you assess the possible role of Corporate Engagement in Disability Affairs under their CSR (both Private and Public Sector), which is mandatory under law? In what specific areas, you expect Corporate Bodies to be involved for making a difference on the conditions of PWDS in India?

The corporate sector may play a crucial role in the following areas
To promote employment of PWDS in the private sector;
To support skill development and employment generation programmes;
To promote accessibility in the corporate sector and other private sectors; and
To generate mass awareness on the Rights and entitlements of PWDS opportunities available to them in private/public sector, initiatives taken by the Government and the corporate sector to promote their cause etc.

Any other information, you want to share with the readers of CSR VISION.

The biggest hurdle faced by the Persons with Disabilities is to find ways to lead a normal life with equal opportunities. Using CSR initiative for giving a helping hand to the PWDS would certainly go a long way towards the empowerment of PWDS, the Department is going all out to sensitise corporates and stressing upon them the need to provide employment opportunities The Corporate sector needs to take forward this initiative to translate our vision into reality.  The National Action Plan for skilling PWDS launched on 21 March 2015 provides a unique opportunity to corporates to make a real difference in the lives of PWDS.  I would like to end by quoting F. Scott Hamilton, who famously said, “The only disability is a bad attitude.” 

About the author

CSR VISION is India's (probably World's) first monthly magazine in print devoted to CSR and Sustainable Development for bringing together all stakeholders of SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT at a global and local levels and act as a platform for promoting strategic CSR and sustainable development practices through dissemination of information and knowledge.