Skip to main content

Designing Disability Inclusive Safety Nets in India


Designing Disability Inclusive Safety Nets in India

29th Sep, 2022
Author Name
Anmol Narain, Monitoring and Evaluation Lead, DMEO, NITI Aayog
Posted by
NITI Aayog, New Delhi, India

India bagged nineteen medals at the Paralympics held in Tokyo in September 2021, and highlighted the achievements of our differently abled athletes on the word stage. Success of this caliber deserves high praise and reflection on the ability of the human spirit to surmount the limitations of one’s physical existence to transgress barriers of our own making. Yet, it also prompts us to examine the quality of life of Persons with Disability (PwD) in India and the policy environment within which they can aspire to live a life of dignity and inclusion.

As per our most recent census estimates, there are 26.8 Million PwDs in India amounting to 2.2% of the total population. Most fall within three categories, with 20% that have movement or locomotor related disabilities, 19% with visual disabilities and 19% with hearing disabilities. According to the 76th round of the National Sample Survey of 2018, 57% of PwDs aged 15 and above report a losing their work after the onset of a disability. Among PwDs who report some form of employment, 61% of males with disabilities and 52% females with disabilities are self-employed, followed by casual labour and regular wages/salaries. Female PwDs are especially vulnerable to poverty as the labor force participation rate diverges between male and females, at 36 and 7.7 respectively.

Figure 1 - Left: PwDs by type of disability as per Census 2011.

Figure 2: Right: PwDs by Literacy and Gender, aged 7 years and above as per IndiaStat & Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Govt. of India

Policy, Institutional Mandate and Funds

The Government of India has a dedicated Department for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DoEPWD) within the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment which is responsible for the implementation of flagship schemes to disburse scholarships to students with disabilities, implementing a national action plan for skill development of PwDs, making public spaces accessible, making websites disability friendly, , creating unique identification, providing assistance in purchase and fitting of aids and appliances for PwDs, etc.

With a total outlay of Rs 1137 Cr in fiscal 21-22, 65% of the budget goes to schemes funded by the center (central sector schemes) while 35% goes to autonomous institutions In the last six years, allocations towards central sector schemes in the department have almost doubled, from Rs 365 Cr (2017-18 Actuals) to 709.7 Cr (21-22 BE).

In the International context, India became a signatory to United Nations Conventions on Right of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2007, Article 27 of which recognizes “the right of persons with disabilities to work, on an equal basis with others,” and to a “work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities. Additionally, Sustainable Development Goal 8 (SDG 8) on Decent Work and Economic Growth intends to promote full and productive employment and decent work for all, including for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs).

After ratifying the UNCRPD, India passed the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act in 2016, which replaced an earlier law on Rights of PwDs of 1995. With the objective enshrining disability as an issue of civil rights rather than a health or welfare issue, it recognizes that the primary issue faced by PwDs is their exclusion from mainstream activities and emphasizes equal opportunities. The Act increased the types of disability classified for inclusion in policies from seven to twenty one types, paving the way for a more granular understanding of contextual needs of persons on the spectrum of disability.

The act also provided for a definition of PwDs, according to which it is a “person with long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment which, in interaction with barriers, hinders his full and effective participation in society equally with others, and "Person with benchmark disability" means a person with not less than forty per cent.

An extension of this Act is the Scheme for Implementation of Rights of Persons with Disability (SIPDA) which reflects a priority for DoEPWD amounting to 32% of the total CS Budget at Rs 240.39 Cr as per BE, Union budget 2022-23. The umbrella scheme intends to promote economic mainstreaming through Skill Development and increase awareness generation around the rights of PwDs in addition to ensuring barrier free environments to public buildings and making government websites PwD friendly. Allocations towards SIPDA have increased in comparison to 2019 (Figure 4)

National Institutes, Centre for Disability sports, Rehabilitation Council of India, ALIMCO


Figure 3 - Left: PwDs aged 15 and above and work after onset of disability as per NSS 2018.

Figure 4: Right: SIPDA allocations FY 2019-20 onwards to present as per Union Budgets FY 2019-20 to 2022-23, Government of India.

SPIDA serves a vast mandate and is comprised of several moving parts, some key constituents of the scheme in DoEPWD’s Annual Report 2021-22 include-

  • The “Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan)” as a nation-wide flagship campaign for universal accessibility to public places, transportation and government websites. This includes audits of key public buildings’ accessibility for PwDs.
  • National Action Plan (NAP) for Skill Development Programme for PwDs.
  • Help State Governments to organize camps for issuance of disability certificates and Universal Disability ID Card (UDID)
  • Awareness campaign and sensitization programs ‘Awareness Generation and Publicity Scheme.

Within the Accessible India Campaign (AIC), Significant gains in scheme performance include making airports disability friendly wherein all international airports and most domestic airports have been included, audits for 1662 public building’s accessibility have been completed and shared with concerned authorities. (DoEPWD Annual Report 2021-22) Going forward, the elements of Skill Development for PwDs could be strengthened with renewed gusto given the nature and impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on jobs. Additionally, the National Action Plan for Skill Development PwDs may also improve perceptions around the productivity of PwDs (Baidi and Ilias 2019) which need to be effectively tackled by better evidence and partnerships for placements. Supply of employable skills and the demand for jobs may converge by improving Industry interactions as an integral aspect of training programmes. Finally, the One District One Product programme may be a significant platform to include PwDs within the fold of India’s growth story.

With less than a decade to go before the ambitious 2030 SDG agenda, and SDG 8 which provides for inclusive economic growth, productive employment and decent work for all, including PwDs, the time to chart India’s disability inclusive growth story is now.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal.

This Blog elaborates on the Scheme for Implementation of Rights of Persons with Disability (SIPDA) in the context of designing disability inclusive safety nets in India.
source type