Union Budget: Disabled Cold Shouldered

The National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) has in a statement protested against the substantial reduction in budgetary support to the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities. Even the meagre and inadequate Rs. 1325.39 estimated last time, has been further reduced to Rs. 1171.77 crores this time.

This substantial reduction of nearly 12 percent will adversely impact various schemes and programmes that are being undertaken by the department.

The “Scheme for Implementation for Persons with Disabilities Act” sees a cut in its allocation from Rs. 251.50 to Rs. 209.77 crores. The National Trust which caters to persons with autism, cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities also witnessed lesser budgetary support. It has been reduced from Rs. 39.50 to Rs. 30.00 crore.

Even allocations to the National Programme for Prevention of Blindness have been reduced by nearly 50 percent from Rs. 20.00 to Rs. 10.50 crores as compared to last year. Grant in aid to state governments has also been reduced substantially.

When more disabled people are joining the ranks of the unemployed, it would have been prudent to enhance allocations for the National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation, to enable it to provide loans to small businesses set up by disabled people. On the contrary budgetary support to the NHFDC has been drastically reduced from Rs. 41 crore provisioned in the 2019-20 budget to a mere Rs. 0.01 crore this time.

The announcements made to vigorously pursue privatization of various public sector undertakings will adversely impact the disabled also. With the government unrelenting on the demand to extend reservations to the private sector, shrinking employment avenues in the government sector will see the ranks of the unemployed disabled bourgeoning.

The total expenditure earmarked for the national programmes for the welfare of persons with disabilities has been reduced from Rs. 655 to Rs. 584 crores.

The total towards schemes and projects has been reduced from Rs. 780.00 to Rs. 709.77 crores, this time. The total expenditure towards Social security & Welfare has seen a reduction from Rs. 1126.79 to Rs. 988.59.

Disability pension continues to be stagnant at Rs. 300 for the past many years.

In the pandemic situation, which saw a huge escalation in the number of mental health cases, the allocations made towards mental health displays the total lack of acknowledgment of the crisis. Allocations to the National Mental Health Programme remains constant at Rs. 40.00 crore. No support has been earmarked for the National Institute of Mental Health & Research for the last two years. However, unlike last time, there has been a slight increase in allocations to the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru and the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoli Regional Institute of Mental Health, Tezpur.

What is even more glaring is the complete omission of flagship programme started by this government the Accessible India campaign.

The government remains content with bestowing divine status and a label of divyang, even while pursuing policies that confine disabled citizens to the margins. Displaying complete indifference, during the entire two-hour-long rhetoric filled speech by the Finance Minister, not once did she refer to disabled persons, Muralidharan, general secretary of the NPRD said.

Disabled atmas don’t matter. In earlier budgets, the disabled were disregarded or neglected. This time they have been cold-shouldered. This is deplorable. The NPRD calls upon the disabled community to rise in unison and protest this disabled-unfriendly budget, he said.