Friday, March 23, 2012

Need of standardizing the norms of child care institutions across sector

Dear Colleagues,

There are several institutions in the country that provide institutional care to children in crisis and those who need support. A large number of such institution provide services to children with disabilities. Many of these institutional may not be registered at all and many of these are registered under the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995. There are several that are run by religious and charitable organisations and are not registered under any law.

We have several laws that regulate or register institutions/societies providing such service. An institution can be registered as a  society, trust, non-profit company under Societies Registration Act, Indian Trust Act or under some of the State Acts dealing with Registration of Charitable institutions/trust or under the Indian Companies Act. It may also be just an unregistered organisation providing such a service. There is no binding single law that provides clarity on proper regulations of such institutions. Children in need are children, but we have actually divided them in to so many categories to be dealt by so many agencies- a disabled child by ministry of social justice, a tribal child under the Ministry of Tribal Welfare - just to name a few. Similarly there are multiple laws like Women and Children Institutions (Licensing) Act, 1956 and the new JJ Act 2000 that also deal with registration and regulation of Institutions, The persons with disabilities Act 1995 also provides for registration of institutions providing such services to children with disabilities. Then there are ones run by the Social welfare departments of the State Governments and many governed under the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare.

This has lead to a huge confusion not only among the government functionaries but also among the NGOs/Institutions about multiple registrations / recognition etc. There is no synergy or standard of rules that regulate all institutions. Thus many institutions get left out of any registrations resulting in constant new incidents of child abuse and human rights violation. Before regulating the institutions, the Government has to set its own house in order and streamline their own registration procedures by unifying the process and applying same standards to the child care institutions whether run by a particular ministry or department or registered under JJ Act or Persons with Disabilities Act. Without this, it is just not possible to account for and regulate the number of institutions that have sprung up in various parts of the country and ensure a reasonable standard of human rights.

The children are children first and thus all institutions registered under any Act/Law should follow standard common procedure and process. Registration under one law should be sufficient since it is wrong to burden the NGOs/Institutions to seek recognition and registration under multiple laws. If provisions of Juvenile Justice Act are more enabling and child rights centric lets make them the standards to be followed by all other institutions irrespective of their registration status. And let there be a single regulating agency in each state to  inspect and ensure compliance of the minimum standards in these institutions instead of "this is not under my ministry or my mandate"  psychology. We have seen this confusion in Delhi recently when incidents of child abuse were reported in Arya Orphanage.

Its never too late, I am happy that first baby steps have been taken to at least identify such institutions working across the length and breadth of the nation. Regulation can be the next step. Hope the Government has a larger perspective to ensure standardization in these institutions and if need be support those who lack resources. We can't undermine the important role being played by charitable and religious institutions and voluntary agencies in care and  development of children without any family support, though there are few black sheep as well. Need is to regulate and standardize the norms to check the abuse and neglect of children not only in institutions but also reach out through community resources to those who still haven't found a home/institution and are living in vulnerable situations on roads, pavements, etc.

The initiative by Ministry of Women and Child Development is a welcome step. Here is the news:

The Hindu : Life & Style / Society : Enhancing institutional care

Centre asks States to survey children's homes, proposes amendments to Juvenile Justice Act

Concerned over the abuse and neglect of children living in child care institutes across the country, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has asked the States to conduct a survey of all such institutions, including orphanages at the district level to ensure that these are registered as mandated under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. The States have been asked to submit their report to the Ministry within a month.

The Centre has also proposed to amend the JJ Act to include strict penal provision for non-registration and repealing the older existing laws like the Women and Children Institutions (Licensing) Act, 1956 and Charitable Homes (Supervision and Control) Act, 1960 under which child care institutions were licensed and have so far evaded registration under the JJ Act, 2000. The State has also been asked for their views on these issues.

In a letter sent to all State governments, the Union Women and Child Development Ministry has pointed out that differently-abled children were also living in such child care institutions, many of which are also run by religious and charitable institutions, and that this should also be reviewed.

Section 34(3) of the JJ Act provides for mandatory registration of child care institutions housing children in need of care and protection with the intent of enforcing minimum standards of care for services provided to the children in these homes. The JJ Act also provides for stringent monitoring of the quality of services. “It is for this reason that this Ministry has been persistently urging the State governments and Union Territories to identify and register all child care institutions under the JJ Act. However, progress in this regard has been very slow,” Women and Child Development Ministry said in its letter to the States.

To ensure that children in child care institutions receive the best of care, and are not subject to abuse and neglect, it is imperative that all the homes running in your States housing children in need of care and protection are identified and registered under the JJ Act, the letter said.

The Ministry has also asked the States to issue public advertisements to draw the attention of all organisations running facilities for children in need of care and protection towards their obligation to register under the JJ Act. “Simultaneously, surveys may be conducted at the district level to identify such homes that are not registered and the organisation may be urged to register under the JJ Act failing which their registration, recognition or license issued under any other legislation may be withdrawn and the children shifted to any other residential homes under the JJ Act,'' the letter said.
Source: The Hindu

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Himachal Pradesh High Court directs the State to find ways to provide equal opportunities for disabled in civil services

Dear Colleagues,

This petition by Mr. Shyam Singh, a disabled school teacher from Himachal Pradesh brings out the systemic inadequacies, which I am sure exists in all states, in providing equitable opportunities to persons with disabilities in their recruitment to the civil posts in the States. only 25% of the total Class- I category posts have been filled that are reserved for persons with disabilities in terms of The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act- 1995.  This also indicates that no steps have been taken by the State to fill up the backlog by taking measures suggested in the DoPT Guidelines dated 29 Dec 2005 on effecting the reservation of posts for persons with disabilities.

Such an exercise in needed in most states as we continue to face situations where lack of enabling environment do not allow persons with disabilities to compete with their non-disabled counterparts. Also the state recruitment agencies, public service commissions have not thought of organizing coaching classes for preparing the students for the competitive examinations as is being done to improve representation in civil service of persons from marginalized communities such as scheduled castes / scheduled tribes. NGOs working with persons with disabilities or the self-help groups /DPOs must take up similar initiatives to create a demand for such a need of training and lowering  the selection criteria for persons with disabilities who have been suffering exclusion due to inaccessibility of educational systems as well as attitudinal barriers of the community in reaching their full potential.

Here is the news coverage from Indian Express

Alarmed that only 25 per cent of the posts reserved for the physically-challenged in Class-I category government jobs have been filled up owing to non-availability and non-suitability of candidates, the Himachal High Court on Wednesday directed the state government and Public Service Commission to work on alternatives to provide equal opportunities to the disabled.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Dharam Chand Chaudhary said the existing mode of selection was not in a position to ensure equal opportunity to the physically-challenged. “In terms of the objectives of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act-1995, we are of the view that it is high time that the state thinks of alternate methods of selection. It should also be thought of as whether such selection should be continued with the HP Public Service Commission.

The court passed the order while disposing off an appeal filed by Shyam Singh — a physically-challenged person who works as a school teacher in Darlaghat. The petitioner, who had appeared for Public Service Commission exam under three per cent reservation, was not selected because he “lacked merit”.

“Even in selection in respect of the reserved quota, there cannot be any compromise on standard of merit as prescribed by the appointing authority. Of course, it is certainly open to the appointing authority to prescribe lesser standard, in respect of the reserved categories to achieve the objects of such reservation,” the court said

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mumbai High Court rules Doctors with disabilities can not be denied admission to PG Courses

Please refer to my earlier post in which the Bombay High Court had allowed admission of a disabled girl to the MBBS Course. However, it seems MCI doesn't want to be pro-active in considering disability from a human angle (doctors have been trained to look at disability from a medical angle... so it may not be their fault, its a systemic problem! :-)

However, MCI may learn from the increasing number of cases getting reprieve from the High Court on such issue and frame a disability friendly policy rather than a medically oriented "degree of disability" policy without any human touch and effort to see the ability in the disability !

Three disabled doctors get high court's reprieve

MUMBAI: Three disabled doctors who were denied the chance for admission to PG Medical Courses have got reprieve from Bombay High Court.  A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Ranjit More, in an interim order, directed authorities to consider their case for admission to a PG course in (medicine) or in a non-surgical branch. 

"(Their case would be considered) under physically handicapped category by considering (them) to be eligible for such reservation and on the basis of performance in the CET," said the judges. 

The petitions challenged the constitutional validity of the rules, which said that a candidate with more than 70% disability of the lower limbs cannot be considered to be eligible for admission. The lawyers for the petitioners said the MCI had erred in not considering that the medical courses can be divided into several categories. Dr Manoj Landge, Dr Rakesh Ukey and Dr Astha Ganeriwal were considered ineligible for admissions under this rule.  

Nagpur University challenged for discriminating against Persons with Disabilities

Dear Colleagues,

My dear friend Rajesh Asudani who works with Reserve Bank of India has moved Mumbai High Court (Nagpur Bench) against Nagpur University's open discrimination against persons with disabilities by earmarking only four posts for PH Persons that too making it "subject to availability". That indicates their intention to keep the posts unfilled and then lapse them in favour of general categories on the pretext that suitable candidates were not available! This has become the modus operandi of several Government departments which needs to change.

Here is the coverage in Times of India, Nagpur:

HC stays Nagpur University hiring over blind man's plea 

NAGPUR: A blind man has moved the high court here alleging flouting of rules by Nagpur University in appointment of lecturers. A division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice Prasanna Varale, on Wednesday, stayed the entire recruitment process of the university. The court also issued notices to the respondents including UGC chairman Ved Prakash, NU vice-chancellor Vilas Sapkal and state secretary for higher and technical education, directing them to file reply within two weeks.

Rajesh Asudani (35), a meritorious candidate who aspired to be a lecturer, had argued in-person during first hearing but taking into consideration his blindness, the court appointed Ashutosh Dharmadhikari as amicus curiae to plead his case. He claimed that NU violated Persons with Disabilities (Equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation) act, 1995, in its advertisements for recruitment of professors, associate and assistant professors. He said these advertisements provided reservation for the disabled but "subject to availability" and stated that preference would be given to physically handicapped. He added that advertisements failed to specify the exact nature of disability and were against various circulars issued by UGC, Government of Maharashtra, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, and also against the settled laws established by judgments of Supreme Court and various high courts.

Asudani, working with RBI as Class-I officer, pointed out that NU had issued advertisements for lecturers' recruitment three times in five years - on July 13, 2007, March 26, 2008 and August 30, 2011. The petitioner contended that reservation of posts for disabled persons under Sections 32 and 33 were binding on all the establishments but NU disregarded them in letter and spirit while reserving only four posts for physically handicapped persons, that too making it "subject to availability". He took strong objection to this rider terming it as patently illegal and militating against the letter and spirit of law.

Asudani argued that same rider had not been placed for filling up posts for SC/ST candidates, even though some posts have been advertised numerous times. He cited examples of head of NU post graduate law department Shirish Deshpande and retired sociology lecturer Prof Lakshman Khapekar who earned distinction for their unmatched academic success despite blindness from this very university. He prayed for cancelling the advertisements and directives to NU to come up with new one with proper reservations for disabled.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Court approached to declare Courts Inaccessible in Kenya

Dear Colleagues,

The physical access to public buildings is a major area of concern world over. While many governments have started taking pro-active measures, few are waiting for somebody- generally user groups or NGOs to point out to them that the buildings are inaccessible. While there are less pro-active measures from the governments, the stakeholders are forced to approach various advocacy mechanisms to claim their legitimate right.

The fortunate part is that the Law and the Courts stand by them.  The recent case of Kenya is one good example of how activists and persons with disabilities should use the platform of Courts to move ahead if accessibility is not on the priority list of governments!

Subhash Chandra Vashishth
Advocate-Disability Rights, India

An organisation has filed a case seeking to compel the Judiciary to build ramps to allow people with physical disabilities access courtrooms.

The executive director of Kenya Paraplegic Organisation Timothy Wetangula and a police officer who was crippled by a road accident filed the case accusing the Judiciary of failing to recognise the needs of physically disabled litigants.

They want the High Court to declare that the new Milimani Law Courtrooms and The Supreme Court Building in Nairobi are not accessible to persons with disabilities because they only have concrete barriers, stairs and elevations.

Mr Wetangula and Mr Paul Anupa want an order directing that all the courts in Kenya be fitted with ramps to facilitate access for all persons with disabilities.

They contend that they cannot attend the hearing of Mr Anupa's petition as there is no ramp at the Milimani building, making it impossible for persons on wheelchairs or crutches to get to the courtrooms.

As an interim measure, Justice David Majanja of the High Court said he will make administrative arrangements to ensure that Mr Wetangula and Mr Anupa attend the hearing on Wednesday.

The judge gave the directions after lawyer John Chigiti, who is representing the two, told him that the petitioners want to attend the hearing but they cannot access the courtroom.

Mr Anupa has filed a case through the Kenyan Paraplegic Organisation challenging the decision by the Police Commissioner to send him on retirement on medical grounds in 2009.