This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Martand Jha. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

‘Disability’ Is Treated As ‘Inability’: The Politics Of Reservation In India

More from Martand Jha

By Martand Jha:

Reservation has always been a highly contested subject in India. The binaries between ‘reserved’ vs ‘deserved’ are created to show a picture where meritorious students are not picked and instead those with less merit get picked on the basis of reservation. The fight is put between the unreserved category candidates and those who come under SC/ST and OBC category.

But there is an another category which cuts across the two sides is Persons with Disability (PwD) who are entitled to get 3% reservation as per the Pwd Act 1995. This reservation is called ‘horizontal reservation’ because anyone from any category can be a person with disabilities. Seats in various government services are identified as per the physical requirements of a candidate required for that particular job.

This means that even if a person with disabilities qualifies an exam, he/she may not be picked if they don’t possess physical requirements needed for the job. Many candidates have and are still suffering as they don’t get their appointments after clearing competitive exams conducted by UPSC, SSC and various State Public Service Commissions. Many of these people have to go and fight their cases in the courts for their rights.

One good example of this was that of Ira Singhal, who topped the UPSC exam under unreserved category so that she couldn’t be denied her rightful post just because of her disability. In fact, she was fighting her case in courts for her earlier UPSC attempts in which she scored qualifying marks but was denied an appointment due to her disability.

This is just one example which came into limelight because she topped the exam from the general category in 2015. If every person with disabilities has to give their exam from the general category in order to be even considered for the job, then what’s the point of having reservations? The whole history of differently-abled people getting a government job and a seat in government educational institutions is filled with an immense amount of struggle.

The society which includes our policy makers, examiners, interviewers and bureaucracy understand ‘disability’ as ‘inability’. Because of their messed up understanding of these two entirely different concepts, justice, many a times, has not been served. In an RTI filed last year, it was found that over 14 thousand vacancies earmarked for the people with disabilities, were left unfulfilled since the inception of PwD Act, 1995.

This huge backlog of vacancies was tried to be cleared out through a special recruitment drive conducted by Government of India. This was after getting orders from the higher judiciary and much media uproar that this step had to be taken. It’s true that this step to fill the huge backlog in just one year must have helped many candidates with disabilities, but what about the injustice done in the past 20 years where differently abled candidates were rejected on the basis of their disability.

A whole generation of people suffered at the hands of the system due to the unjust attitude of the system and society because of their disabilities. One couldn’t help but think that do we need court orders and media uproar every time for reservation to be properly implemented and to clear backlog vacancies amounting to thousands.

Sadly, the answer seems to be in the affirmative. The system is always in need of uproar to take action, but that won’t count as justice. Secondly, the reason behind such huge backlog of vacancies is that the system wants to make sure that those who have applied from any particular category (especially differently-abled) should be picked from the seats reserved for them only. To cut the argument short, it is tried to ensure that no candidate who has applied from any other category can come from unreserved category.

If one argues that why he/she was picked from his/her categories reserved seat and not from unreserved category even after getting more marks than the cut-off required for unreserved category, the typical reply comes from the ‘sarkari babus’ is that, “Why do you care, you have got a seat, just be happy with that.”

This is sheer injustice. The point is not just about getting a seat, the point is about effective implementation of reservation because if a differently-abled candidate qualifies from general category, then he/she wouldn’t come from his/her category and another differently-abled candidate can come in that place from the Pwd Category seat.

Secondly, the question is how 3% reservation for candidates with disabilities is calculated. It seems as a simple mathematical problem when the total number of seats is more. For e.g. if there are 100 seats in total, then 3 seats out of 100 would be reserved for differently-abled candidates. But what about when less than 15 seats are in question, how does one calculate its 3% because it would not even amount to a single seat and as a result no differently-abled candidate is picked.

This is not an imaginary thing that I have put out here, this happens most of the time and since many government jobs and higher educational institutions come out with very few seats/vacancies, people with disabilities are outrightly denied even a single seat citing absurd mathematical problem leading to a huge backlog of vacancies.

The department of personnel and training (DoPT) says that 1st, 34th and 67th seat in every 100 seats is reserved for differently-abled candidates, one each for locomotor disability, visual disability and hearing disability. This is reiterated by the Supreme Court in Union of India Vs. National Federation of the Blind case, 2013 by reserving the point Nos. 1, 34 and 67 for Physically Handicapped candidates in the 100 point roster register.

This means even if less than 10 seats are advertised, the 1st seat belongs to the candidates with disabilities. This thing is not followed by many central government institutions including universities like JNU which pride itself in fighting for equal opportunities, citing the same mathematical reasons as listed above. Even high officials in the JNU administration don’t know about the 100 point roster register and the implementation of PwD reservation.

The current government’s policy of calling persons with disabilities as ‘Divyang’ and thereby getting huge appreciation of their supporters is not going to change anything fundamentally until and unless the government decides to fix these lacunae’s in the system. Till then, the struggle for equal opportunities, rights, and respect for differently-abled continues.


Image source: Hindustan Times/ Getty Images
You must be to comment.
  1. Punit Makker

    Bhai k konsi post thi or kya disability thi khul ke bta. And how to contact u.

More from Martand Jha

Similar Posts

By Sharbari Ghosh

By Atypical Advantage

By Ungender Legal Advisory

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below