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Law to ‘rehabilitate’ the disabled not implemented in Sindh

Law to ‘rehabilitate’ the disabled not implemented in Sindh

KARACHI: Despite a lapse of nine months to the passage of the Sindh Differently Abled Persons (Employment, Rehabilitation and Welfare) Act 2014, by the provincial assembly, the government has failed to set up a council meant to ‘rehabilitate’ persons with disabilities.

As the world, including Pakistan, observed the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Thursday, the plight of disabled citizens have been unattended by the governments in the centre and the provinces.

December 3 was declared by the United Nations in 1992 as a day for persons with disabilities to promote awareness and mobilise support for critical issues relating to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society, and their development. In 2006, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an international human rights treaty.

Sindh, though theoretically, went a step ahead when it passed the abovementioned bill in its assembly, yet it has failed to ink the required by-laws and regulations which would assist to establish a council for the welfare and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities whose number is on the rise.

Officials in the provincial government admitted that they had failed to write down the by-laws for the act for a host of reasons, the most clichéd of them being the ever-tangling red-tape in the corridors of power.

The provincial legislation is meant to replace a federal law of 1981 in which persons with disabilities had been accorded two per cent quota in government jobs, which was seldom implemented over the past three decades.

With close to a billion people around the world living with disabilities, and a large proportion present in Pakistan, and Sindh, the government’s response have never gone further than lip-service, according to critics.

Persons with disabilities have virtually taken to streets several times until recently, protesting against the non-implementation of the law and the government’s denial to offer them the paltry two per cent quota. However, they were only given more promises from various ministers and ruling functionaries.

The new provincial law envisages a council with the social welfare secretary as its chairman and secretaries of the labour, special education and rehabilitation department, representatives of health, planning and development, Auqaf and religious affairs, and women development departments, the managing-director of the Sindh Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority, officials of the chamber of commerce and industry, and registered trade unions, four persons engaged in welfare work for disabled persons and two MPAs as members of the council.

The council is meant to execute the policy made by the government for employment, rehabilitation and welfare of special people; undertake appropriate projects for their welfare; issue directives to any organisation to implement the council’s project; conduct medical examination and provide treatment to special persons and facilitate them in acquiring full concession in admission fee; and relief of 75pc in tuition fee in government educational institutions.

The council is also required to facilitate in health insurance and provide free treatment at government health facilities; social security grant on monthly basis to the needy differently-abled persons and grant for the marriage of their children.

The 2014 act also includes “interest free loan to the needy in setting up small businesses as may be prescribed [and] concession in cost of plots developed on land allotted by the government for incremental housing,” as part of the council’s functions.

The ninth clause of the act says: “An establishment which does not employ a disabled person as required by section 8 (two per cent compulsory job quota for special persons), shall pay into the (government disabled persons rehabilitation) funds each month the sum of money it would have paid as salary or wages to the disabled person employed.”

The government is directed under the law to establish a fund for special people’s rehabilitation. The fund is to be administered by the council and is to be utilised for setting up training centres, giving away financial assistance, disbursement of stipends or scholarships and provision of artificial limbs, surgical therapy and medical treatment.

“We are still waiting for implementation on the act in full,” said Shahid Memon, chairman of the Pakistan Disabled Foundation.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2015

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