How Twitter Advocacy Led To The School Admission Of A Child With Disability

Posted by Dr Satendra Singh in Disability Rights
December 11, 2017

On the eve of the Human Rights Day, Chief Minister of Jharkhand Mr Raghubar Das acted swiftly to safeguard the right to education of a child with disability. Five days ago, Jitisha a three-year-old girl with disability was denied school admission by De Nobili School, Central Mining Research Institute, Dhanbad, Jharkhand. De Nobili School is named after Father De Nobili who was the first European to learn Sanskrit and to study the Vedas and the Vedanta as per the School’s website.

The very same school was in controversy when the child’s parents alleged humiliation from the school administration including the Principal and Vice Principal who are said to have made fun of the child and turned them away. A local Hindi newspaper Awaaz, carried the story. The parents complained to the local governance and Child welfare society. Major DP Singh, India’s blade runner tagged me on the story on Twitter.

I tweeted the Awaz media clip to Chief Minister of Jharkhand and copied it to Social Welfare Minister of Jharkhand Louis Marandi, Prime Minister of India and PMO portal with a request to take action under section 3(3) of the recently passed Rights of the Persons with Disabilities (RPD Act) Act 2016.

The clause clearly states that no person with disability shall be discriminated on the ground of disability. The Act further states in section 16:

Section 16: Duty of educational institutions —The appropriate Government and the local authorities shall endeavour that all educational institutions funded or recognised by them provide inclusive education to the children with disabilities and towards that end shall—
(i) admit them without discrimination and provide education and opportunities for sports and recreation activities equally with others;

The new Disability Rights Act defines establishment as both public and private so the Act is applicable on both. So, this specific instance was violation of both human rights as well as RPD Act 2016.

I then contacted the office of Awaz and from there the editor Mr Deepak Ambastha and then the parents. On the morning of December 9, Chief Minister responded with a tweet:

I have also raised another issue of non-drafting of the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities Rules by the Jharkhand government which is mandatory as per section 101 of the Disability Act. It’s been eight months since the notification of the Act and majority of the States including Jharkhand have not framed the Rules. This makes strict action under the new law difficult. The new Disability Act has outlined financial penalty (Section 89) and jail imprisonment (section 92). By this time Sumit Khaitan, child’s father, too had joined the Twitter conversation.

In the afternoon, Chief Minister gave the good news by tweeting:

This was a good example of collaborative effort which led to result, successful Twitter advocacy if you may call it. However, the larger issue remains that there are so many other Jitisha who might be facing discrimination. The new Disability Act has been made to give effect to the biggest human rights instrument of the millennium-United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD. It’s been nearly a year and despite the notification of the Act on 19th April 2017, only a handful of States like Delhi, Orissa Rajasthan Tamil Nadu, Telengana, UP and Bengal have formulated draft Rights of the Persons with Disabilities Act Rules 2017.

This is not how we are going to safeguard the human tights of the people with disabilities. This is not how we are going to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 either. December 10 marked the anniversary of 70 years of Universal Declaration of Human Rights which empowers us all. It establishes the equl dignity and worth of every person. It’s our right to demand our Government whom we have elected to make sure the implementation of Rights of Persons with Disabilties Act in line with UNCRPD. Its not a charity or divine activity, its their duty and our basic human right.