Wednesday, January 27, 2021

President awards Dr Satendra Singh with National Award for making the elections disabled-friendly

11th National Voters’ Day was celebrated across the country today on January 25, 2021 with the President of India Shri Ram Nath Kovind gracing the national level event held at New Delhi in a virtual, online mode. Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister for Law & Justice, Communications and Electronics and Information Technology graced the event as the Guest of Honour. The Chief Election Commissioner Shri Sunil Arora, Election Commissioners Shri Sushil Chandra, Shri Rajiv Kumar, and Secretary General Shri Umesh Sinha received the dignitaries on the occasion. 

On this occasion, the President virtually conferred the National Awards for the Best Electoral Practices to Officers for their outstanding performance in the conduct of elections in different spheres. Dr Satendra Singh was awarded for his efforts in making elections accessible to people with disabilities and elderly. In addition, awards were also conferred on CSOs, Govt. Departments and Media Houses for their outstanding contribution in the field of voter awareness and outreach. All the awardees are mentioned in the NVD 2021 brochure which can be downloaded here. Representatives from Political Parties also attended the national function.

Video of Award

YouTube link of National Awards streamed on Election Commission of India Channel

Saturday, January 23, 2021

National Award for Dr Satendra Singh for best electoral practices


दिव्यांग डॉ सत्येन्द्र सिंह को मिलेगा राष्ट्रीय पुरस्कार (दैनिक जागरण 24 जनवार्य 2021)

The Election Commission of India has selected seven officials and an NGO from Delhi for the “Best Electoral Practices Awards-2020”. They will be honoured here on the occasion of National Voters Day on January 25.

Source: Daily Pioneer, 25 Jan 2021

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Outrage builds over Union Minister Babul Supriyo's shocking behaviour towards disabled person

Union Minister Babul Supriyo is known for his abrasive statements. But this time he has gone too far.
At an event in Asansol in West Bengal held to distribute wheelchairs and other assistive devices to people with disabilities, Supriyo lost his temper and issued a shocking threat to someone present at the function. The minister apparently got angry because the man was shifting in his chair.
In a video that has been widely shared, Supriyo can be seen telling the man - "What happened to you? Any problem? I can break one of your legs and can give you a crutch."
The minister then went on to order his security men to break the man's leg and hand him a crutch if he moved again. He even asked the audience to applaud for the man.
The behaviour has been condemned strongly by leading disability rights activist, Dr Satendra Singh, who points out that this is not the first minister in the present government to issues such threats against people with disabilities.
The Modi govt has passed this landmark legislation however its ministers continues to flaunt the legislation. A day after the implementation of RPWD Act, Uttar Pradesh cabinet minister Satyadev Pachauri insulted a disabled employee in Lucknow in which I filed the first ever complaint under the new disability act. Now its Babul Supriyo. The government needs to walk the talk and they should take action against the erring minister if they really believe in sabka saath, sabka vikas. - Dr Satendra Singh, Disability rights activist
The behaviour has attracted angry reactions on social media as well. One person tweeted: "A sitting BJP MP threatens extreme violence on a vulnerable person why is he not ARRESTED @BJP4India." Another person said, "He should be Govt's Recovery Agent, breaking people legs and recovering the loan amount from them."
What is worse is the total lack of regret shown by the Union Minister, who described it as "light-hearted humour".
Source: Newzhook 

Panel to help more disabled people vote in Delhi

NEW DELHI: An eight-member State Steering Committee on Accessible Election was formed on Tuesday to ensure and monitor the electoral process in Delhi.

The committee, which was created on the direction and guidelines of the Election Commission, has been entrusted with the task of mapping persons with disabilities (PwD) according to the poll stations as well as maintaining and updating the data regularly. Also, it has to look into identifying PwDs who are not enrolled in the voters’ list and facilitate the same by planning special camps and sensitisation efforts, and submit a periodic report to the ECI.

The committee comprises the chairperson, six members and the convener. While the chief electoral officer (CEO) will chair the committee, the additional CEO will be the convener. The other members include principal secretary, Delhi government, director, Pt Deen Dayal Upadhayaya National Institute for Persons with Physical Disabilities, directors of department of social welfare and education, Dr Satendra Singh, associate professor, University College of Medical Science, Delhi University, Dr Achal Bhagat, chairperson, AADI, an NGO.

The committee will facilitate creating a barrier-free environment for efficient and effective electoral participation by the disabled, and ensure training for election functionaries by sensitising them on special needs of PwDs, prepare a module on the same, and share with the districts. It would also assess the recommendations of District Monitoring Committee on Accessible Election (DMCAE) on further steps to be taken to enhance their electoral participation, and appoint state icons from among PwDs.

Disabled student has to be carried up the stairs every day as this Himachal medical college has no ramps

Rohit Prasad had always dreamed of studying medicine, an ambition his parents encourage him to pursue regardless of the fact that he has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair.
That goal saw him achieve good results in school as well as the medical entrance exams. But for Rohit, clearing the medical entrance exam was a small hurdle, compared to what he goes through every day at the Government Medical College (GMC) in Nahan, Himachal Pradesh.
The college is inaccessible, and Rohit has to be lifted along with his wheelchair on the steps. His mother says she has to appeal to the visitors at the hospital to help her lift her son.
A humiliating experience that he is being subject to as the college has chosen to flout Medical Council of India guidelines, the RPWD Act, 2016 and those of the Himachal Pradesh government.
My son sometimes cries and says he does not want to study like this. It bothers me, but I am determined that he not give up on his dreams. He has been a bright student all throughout. – Kiran Prasad
For Rohit, this apathy is not a one-off experience. He first got admission into the Government Medical College, Chandigarh, but when college authorities found out that he was disabled, they turned him down. “They asked me ‘how can your son study medicine when he is like this”, says Mrs. Prasad.
Rohit did not give up and was granted admission at GMC Nahan. Here too, he got similar reactions. But Rohit’s family is determined not to back down in the face of such callousness.
They have approached well-known disability rights activist Dr Satendra Singh for help. As Rohit’s mother puts it, “this is not a fight for my son alone but for all disabled students who want to study medicine”.
Dr Singh, who has been at the forefront of fighting for the rights of disabled students to study medicine, has taken the matter up with senior authorities in the Himachal Pradesh government as well as the MCI. He had petitioned the MCI in 2014 asking for all medical colleges be made accessible.
Dr. Singh says that despite the provisions of the RPWD Act 2016, a majority of leading medical colleges are not making any serious efforts to ensure their campuses are accessible.
“I wrote to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi and the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (PGIMS) in Chandigarh about making their buildings accessible.. AIIMS responded saying this was a 'daunting task'!”.
The problem, he believes, lies in the fact that rules under the RPWD Act 2016 have not been framed in many states.
“Besides, accessibility in India not been understood. The onus has been put on individuals and that is not going to work. It has to come on the government. We also have to ensure we have trained access auditors, which is a serious lack.”
In the bargain, sincere, committed students like Rohit are being subject to daily humiliations, a violation of basic rights granted under the Constitution.

Student With Disability Carried up Stairs in Himachal Medical College Without Ramps

New Delhi: For the last two months or so, Chandigarh resident Rohit Kumar has been struggling to attend MBBS classes at the medical college in Nahan, Himachal Pradesh. He was admitted to the college earlier this year after securing the 181st rank under the ‘physical handicap’ quota in the all-India medical entrance examination, but the campus isn’t wheelchair-friendly. In the absence of a ramp, volunteers have to lift him up and down the staircases of the multi-level college building.

Though Kumar’s father, B.N. Prasad, had raised the issue with the state health minister Vipin Parmar when he recently visited his residence in Sirmaur district, where the college is also located, the only assurance he received was that the college would make necessary changes to the stairs.

Rights activist lodges complaint with MCI, concerned officials
Disability rights activists, who have been fighting for the need to make all such medical institutions friendly to persons with disabilities, see the Nahan medical college as a clear cut violation of the Medical Council of India’s (MCI’s) guidelines to make all the medical colleges disability-friendly.

In view of Kumar’s situation, associate professor of physiology and co-founder of the Medial Humanities Group at University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi, Satendra Singh, has complained to the president of MCI, additional chief secretary (social justice and empowerment) of Himachal Pradesh and director and deputy director of empowerment of SC’s, OBC’s, minorities affairs and the specially-abled (ESOMSA) of the state government about how the medical student’s case also highlighted violations of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016.

Singh recalled in the complaint that it was on his petition in the court of chief commissioner for persons with disabilities and later with the National Human Rights Commission that the MCI had directed all medical institutions in the country to become disabled-friendly and also instructed them to submit a compliance report.

He said following the petitions, the MCI had revised the standard assessment form and thereby fixed the accountability of accessibility of the medical institution on to the dean or principal.

Furthermore, he said, the Centre had enacted the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act 2016 to give effect to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which lays certain principles for empowerment of persons with disabilities. These principles call for “respect for inherent dignity, independence of persons; non-discrimination; full and effective participation and inclusion in society; respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity; equality of opportunity; accessibility; and equality.”

Singh said it was also notable that the director of ESOMSA in Himachal Pradesh had on May 5, 2017 issued directions for the implementation of provisions of the RPwD Act in letter and spirit. Also, he said, the governor had on July 20 this year appointed a deputy director (welfare) of ESOMSA as the grievance redressal officer.

`Nahan medical college did not comply with directions’

But despite all of these legislations and mandatory orders being in place, Singh lamented that the Dr. Yashwant Singh Parmar Government Medical College, Nahan, remains disability-unfriendly and has failed to provide necessary accessibility to persons with disabilities.

Stating that the fact that Kumar had to be physically lifted in the medical college every time he goes there to attend his MBBS classes amounts to “humiliation”, he charged that the lack of accessibility at the college showed that the administration had flouted the MCI norms as well as provisions of RPwD Act and the state government’s directives.

“The Principal of Government Medical College, Nahan also happens to be Director, Medical Education & Research of Government of Himachal Pradesh. In both these capacities she has flouted the law and government order. As per the MCI Standard Assessment Form, it is the responsibility of the Principal to comply with the Disability Act,” said the disability rights activist.

MCI urged to pull up principal for dereliction

Singh also urged the MCI president to take strict view of this violation and seek explanation from the principal and direct her to make the campus accessible by providing at the earliest all reasonable provisions as laid down under the RPwD Act.

He also appealed to the state government, ESOMSA and the grievance redressal officer to consider his complaint under Section 20 of the RPwD Act for investigation and take up the matter with the establishment for corrective action within two weeks as prescribed in the Act.

Singh also sought strict action under Section 89 and 92 of the Act and the imposition of a financial penalty and imprisonment, as deemed fit and provided in the Act, since this was a case where a person with disability was being forced to undergo humiliation because of lack of accessibility, which is his right.

Kumar’s father concerned about son’s well-being

Meanwhile, Kumar’s father has also been raising the issue of the difficulties faced by both his son and the volunteers and attendants when they have to physically lift him from one floor to the other in the college. Prasad said he has written letters to the prime minister, chief minister and also the college management to seek their intervention for urgently making necessary provisions for ensuring the smooth movement of his son around the medical college.

He has also pointed out that even after Kumar got admission in the college, necessary arrangements for making it accessible have not been provided. Kumar is also not able to avail of the hostel because of similar shortcomings.

He has pointed out that at least four people are required to lift Kumar each time and this is as perilous for them as the medical student. Kumar uses a wheelchair to move around as his muscles have been becoming weak due to muscular dystrophy.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Medical Council of India’s new guidelines on admission of persons with specified disabilities: Unfair, discriminatory and unlawful

Medical Council of India’s new guidelines on admission of persons with specified disabilities: Unfair, discriminatory and unlawful

The Medical Council of India (MCI)’s recent guidelines on admission of persons with specified disabilities into the medical course under the disability quota has escalated into a huge controversy. Multiple litigations have been initiated against MCI by successful National Eligibility cum Entrance Test candidates with disabilities across the country. In light of our new Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, I argue in this essay that these guidelines are unfair, discriminatory and unlawful. I quote Supreme Court judgments on reasonable accommodation, equality and discrimination and highlight the exclusion of doctors with disabilities in policy making.

Post script: The author-led representation, under the banner “Doctors with Disabilities: Agents of Change”, was taken on record by the Health Ministry. It has been learnt that the Health Ministry has amended certain controversial parts in the MCI guidelines acknowledging said representation in their response to the apex court.