The Rajya Sabha created history on December 14. After six years of endless waiting, lobbying and advocating, it unanimously passed the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill.
I attended a rally yesterday where hundreds of people with disabilities came out on the streets and marched towards Parliament shouting slogans demanding their rights and urging the Parliamentarians to look beyond politics and pass this bill. I have personally witnessed this struggle since 2013, but the fight has been going on for longer. I still remember the winter of 2013-14 when hundreds came out to rally and meet different political parties for the passage of the bill. The temperature was low, but spirits really high.
Today is an emotional moment for all those who have been a part of this historic struggle. The bill was scheduled for discussion at 2 in the afternoon. I was driving since 11 and decided to log on to Rajya Sabha TV from my phone to check what was happening (just in case!). It was almost a miracle to see that in the middle of such an angst-ridden session, the members of the house reached a consensus and decided to start the discussion right away. In case you crossed the BRT and saw one lone car parked on the side – that was me, biting my nails.
There is no doubt that bill will be a game-changer. From the current archaic law- Persons with Disabilities Act 1995 – this will bring to the forefront a rights-based legislation which will give people with disabilities what they deserve – a life of dignity. While the 1995 Act recognises only 7 disabilities, the new bill brings that number up to 19, including Autism, Hemophilia, Multiple Sclerosis and Thalassemia among others. The amended version passed today will also include acid Attack survivors and those having Parkinson’s disease.
The new bill has a heavy focus on anti-discriminatory measures and puts a lot of onus on rights – right to equality and opportunity, right to inherit and own property, right to home and family and reproductive rights amongst others.Unlike the 1995 act, this bill also talks about accessibility – in areas of infrastructure, transportation, information and electronic goods. A game changer, this one!
As procedures go, the bill will now be sent to the Lok Sabha and I am now moving beyond my cynicism to say that it shall be passed!