Leaving no one behind

Published:  12:00 AM, 21 March 2017

The Vision 2030 document should formulate a disability-inclusive development agenda

The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) is formulating a Vision 2030 document. This document is coterminous with the UN's 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), all 17 of which equally affect persons with disabilities as they do any other citizen. The National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People conducted a seminar in December 2016.

The government, the private sector, and leaders from various development fields participated to take stock of the current situation and deliberate on how disability could be integrated in Vision 2030. A starting point was that the government, the NITI Aayog, and all the associated stakeholders should interpret the provisions of the SDGs in line with the requirements and spirit of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). What may a road map for creating a disability-inclusive development agenda look like?

A starting point Disability is still seen as an opportunity for dispensing charity rather than as a development or a human rights issue. The knowledge of MPs and State legislatures must be refreshed on the rights, needs and issues of persons with disabilities based on the changing disability landscape, the UNCRPD, and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. The NITI Aayog must invest effort in building awareness for NGOs, academics, civil society, the private sector, etc., in order to articulate a disability-inclusive development agenda. Persons with disabilities must be seen as integral to the decision-making process and not as an afterthought.

They must be mentioned in the outcome metrics defined for each goal, target or indicator, and these matrices must elaborate specific strategies for persons with disabilities. There must be seven-year checkpoints for ministries or departments to assess the outcomes. Fair and adequate representation of disability groups during the consultation process is imperative. The NITI Aayog has mapped each goal to a nodal ministry and each target with the government's key programmes and departments to make these targets accountable and realise them within a specified time period. However, disability is an issue that cuts across several ministries; it is not just a subject for the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Our analysis indicates that there are 26 ministries where there needs to be a dedicated focus towards persons with disabilities and a specific cell to address their concerns. Specific budgets need to be allocated across initiatives and ministries to address the needs of persons with disabilities. The NITI Aayog too must have a dedicated cell which acts as a focal point and works with all ministries to monitor implementation and track progress across all initiatives for persons with disabilities. The document must insist that data for persons with disabilities are appropriately collected, maintained and disaggregated.

This must include all government initiatives that capture any data related to population or human resources or human development, including employment, education, poverty and hunger. While reporting from the SDGs' point of view, the NITI Aayog must ensure that the process of data collection and disaggregation for disability must not be relegated to the silos of seven targets which explicitly mention persons with disabilities, or the additional six targets which mention people in vulnerable situations. In addition, there are universal targets, which must also be achieved for persons with disabilities. Our analysis indicates that there are more than 85 targets across 15 goals encompassing more than 100 indicators where there is a need to collect, analyse, disaggregate and report data for persons with disabilities. All data must be available in the public domain, and published in an an accessible format and in a timely manner.

It is important for India to have the addition of a universally accepted disability question(s) on all existing data instruments. The UN recommends the Washington Group Short Set of Questions on Disability, while India has been using a different question. A standard question needs to be developed, taking into account the socio-cultural sensitivities of people with disabilities and their families. The NITI Aayog should call for a national-level consultation with cross-disability groups and arrive at a consensus on the right question, which should then be unified across all data instruments of all sources of demographic information, including the impending Unique Disability ID, the population census, civil registration, sample surveys conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation, Sample Registration System and for all social schemes.

The overarching principle of Vision 2030 is to "leave no one behind". We, as disabled citizens, are anxious to learn how this crucial document, which will encompass the SDGs 17 goals and 169 targets, will be inclusive of our needs and aspirations. The writer is a marketing specialist, social entrepreneur and a disability rights activist. The writeup appeared in The Hindu.

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