Introduction of quota for disabled to contest general & state assembly elections in India
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We all, with keen interest, voted in the 16th Lok Sabha election, but what we failed to notice was that the disabled community in India is very much under-represented in both Lok Sabha and in the state assemblies. Indian disabled, who account for 2.21% of the entire population (census 2011), are woefully under-represented in many disciplines; with politics, we see some of the worst numbers.
In 2016, the Government of India passed the ‘Right of Persons with Disability Bill’, which is silent on the provisions for ensuring representative participation of the disabled in elected positions in the central and state assemblies. Though the ‘Right to Persons with Disability Bill’ provides for 4% reservation for the disabled in the public employment, including the civil services in the country, such a quota is not provided for the disabled community in the elections to the central and state legislative assemblies.
The right to take part in political and public life is a fundamental rule of the ‘International Human Rights Law’. It was first set out in Article 21 of the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)’ and was further elaborated in Article 25 of the ‘International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)’.
Political rights have been further traced in a series of international and regional human rights instruments. Among them, the ‘Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)’ was the first to expand the right to take part in political and public life in the context of disability. Clause 29 of CRPD states that “state parties should ensure that people with disabilities have political rights, as well as an opportunity to enjoy them on an equal footing with others”.
India is a signatory to the CRPD in, 30th May 2007. Article 326 of the ‘Constitution of India’ provides for the ‘Right to be Elected’ under the ‘Right to Adult Suffrage’. However, the Indian government has so far not introduced any provisions to ensure that the disabled community has equal representation in the parliament and the state assemblies in the country.
Representation of the disabled in elected political bodies can bring about a beneficial change to the disabled community and help to shape better inclusive policies. A quota of 3% of the total 545 seats in the Lok Sabha would provide 16 seats for the disabled community. At present, we barely have a few disabled members in Lok Sabha and the state assemblies.
In the present day, we do have many Acts and Rules which aim to produce a barrier-free environment for all classes of the society. Unfortunately, the disabled community in the country still faces huge challenges, ranging from environmental barriers to social barriers. These barriers have limited the participation of the disabled in many disciplines, especially in the political system.
India is progressing towards inclusive development of whole communities. Unfortunately, the expected levels of inclusiveness for the disabled community have not been achieved yet in many facets of the society. Adequate representation of the disabled in the central and state assemblies will be a huge step towards reaching inclusive development. A quota for the disabled for contesting in the general and state assembly elections can ensure equal representation of the disabled community in the country.
We have many examples to show that disabilities do not prevent us from contributing to the society through the political system. Sadhan Gupta became the first blind parliamentarian in independent India in 1953. Yamuna Prasad Shastri, Om Prakas Chautala, the former CM of Haryana, Jaipal Reddy, the union minister of the cabinet and Minati Barik from Odisha have all showed that the barriers of disability can be broken for the upliftment of the society.
The disabled community in India has been gradually making it to the forefront of public life. Inclusive policies goes a long way in enabling the disabled community and providing them with equal opportunities to exercise their rights, attain their potentials and contribute to the nation’s growth. A quota for the disabled for contesting in the general and state assembly elections will be a progressive step in our journey to inclusive development.
Hence, I request your support as a signatory to put forward this proposal for a quota for the disabled for contesting in the general and state assembly elections, to be considered in the upcoming parliamentary session.
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