There have been several voices against the RTE Bill which fail to die down- thanks to the ever vibrant disability sector. On 19th of September 2009, another Disability Rights Activists from across 15 Indian States assembled under the banner of Viklang Manch facilitated by Human Rights Law Network at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi. Before that the Manch had convened a two Day workshop on the issue which were inaugurated by none less than Chairperson- National Trust, Chairman-Rehabilitation Council of India and the Deputy Chief Commissioner -Disabilities besides Mr. Collin Gonsalves, Advocate.
The activists were angry and the unrest has grown over a period of time because of failure of the bureaucracy in treating the disabled with dignity and respect besides Govt. of India's failure to implement a major enabling legislation called the Persons with Disabilities Act.
The activists handed over memorandum to the PMO. To visit various pictures of the agitation at Jantar Mantar click here.
The agitation was a final nail in the series of agitations earlier organised by AARTH-ASTHA , AADI, NCPEDP and other organisations in the sector. The very next day on 21st September, 2009 Mr. Sibal indicated that Govt. was seriously considering amending the RTE Act to include the concerns of the disability sector.
Now when the Govt. is seriously considering amendments in RTE Act, the Sector should reach out with one voice through a larger consultation so that no one is left out. The pursuit should be to address not only the Act but also suggest what ought to be there in the sub-rules of the Act so that the provisions that are included are implementable.
Here is a recent news which to me is no where indicative of its subject, though it spells out again the seriousness that the Ministry of Education is showing now.
Disabled children not to be in 'disadvantaged' class
5 Oct 2009, 0411 hrs IST, Urmi A Goswami, ET Bureau
NEW DELHI: The Manmohan Singh government plans to amend the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 to broaden the ambit of “disadvantaged” children to include children with disabilities. It would like to introduce the amendments in the winter session of Parliament.
The ministry of human resource development (HRD) will be seeking Cabinet approval shortly for the changes. This move would allow differently-abled children from economically weaker and disadvantaged sections to take advantage of the 25% seats set aside in private unaided school under Clause 12 of the Act. This had been a key demand of disability activists when they met HRD minister Kapil Sibal. The ministry also plans to introduce changes in Clause 3 of the Act to extend the right to free and compulsory education to children suffering from disabilities as defined in the National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999.
This Act deals with severe mental retardation and goes beyond the scope of the Disabilities Act. At present, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act is applicable to differently-abled children covered by the Disabilities Act.
This move by the ministry of human resource development is in response to the protests by disability activists in August, just ahead of the legislation being taken up for discussion in the Lok Sabha. At the time, the ministry had suggested that it could amend the Act after due consultation with those who work and research on issues relating to the education of children suffering from severe mental disabilities.
The ministry had also considered a higher outlay for home-based education, which many children with severe disabilities require. This effort to draw in larger number of children with disability also comes on the back of data gathered by a survey conducted by the IMRB.
The survey found that 34.12% of children with disability were out of school. The national average for children in the age group of 6 to 13 years is 4.22%. This figure is lower than the situation in 2005 when IMRB found the percentage of children out of school at 38.13. The highest concentration of out of school children is among those with visual disabilities (46%) and multiple disabilities (58.57%).