ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Chasing the Certificate That Enables

Disabled citizens face a traumatic time procuring the crucial disability certifi cate.

Among the tasks that fill most Indians with dread is the act of procuring the all-important identity and eligibility documents so dear to the Indian bureaucracy. Imagine the plight of disabled citizens for whom getting a disability certificate that officially recognises their disability and medically ranks it in percentage terms has long been a nightmarish experience. Yet, without that certificate their identity as a disabled person, no matter how obvious and visible the disability, is not established. So, whether it is a job, admission into an educational institution or a travel concession, without such a certificate they have no access to the government welfare schemes, concessions and subsidies meant for them. Recently, an application under the right to information (RTI) has elicited information from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment that only 38% of the disabled in the country have managed to get the precious certificate. The information under the RTI, carried by the media, says that while 40% of the disabled in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have managed to get the certificate, in Delhi the figure stands at only 22%. States like Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Assam and Kerala seem to be among the worst performers in this respect, while Tripura with 98% and Tamil Nadu with 72% coverage are among the best.

Census 2011 records 26.8 million disabled Indians but this figure is widely disputed and is considered to be much lower than the actual number. Recently, Tamil Nadu has made it possible to apply for the certificate online with promise of delivery within seven days. But elsewhere, the time period between application and delivery varies from a minimum of six months to a year, according to disability rights’ activists. The description of the travails of disabled applicants, especially in rural and remote areas, is harrowing. Regardless of the distance, the disabled applicant (whether rural or urban but often poor and a daily-wage earner) has to make at least four visits over a long period of time before receiving the prized certificate. Worse still, the more “prestigious” institutions – educational or health providers – insist on “reviewing” this certificate all over again. This is due to the touts who operate with impunity almost at the gates of the recognised hospitals and centres promising to speed up the process for a bribe or even for the able-bodied who use these certificates to avail of certain government concessions and subsidies.

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