The Persons with Disabilities Bill (PWD), which is set to be tabled in Parliament, lists 21 infirmities, and is now going to include persons afflicted with Parkinson's disease and acid attack survivors as well. Those falling under these 21 categories will now be recognised as disabled, and will be deemed eligible for affirmative action and benefits under the law.
Alongside a recommendation from the Home Ministry, the Supreme Court also directed the government to confer the disabled tag for acid attack victims.
After the proposed amendment to the existing 1995 Act, which initially increased the number of disabilities from seven to 19, was referred to a group of ministers for discussion, two more categories were added, making it a total of 21.
Parkinson's disease has also made its way into the PWD Bill, on the basis of the argument that there was a debilitating stigma surrounding the disorder in rural areas, and recognising it would help sensitise the general population.
Autism, thalassemia, haemophilia, multiple scelerosis, sickle cell disease and dwarfism are the other key additions to the 1995 Act.
"We have recommended this to the Home Minister that acid attack survivors be brought within the ambit of the Persons with Disability Act so that they can get government jobs etc and he has agreed to look into it", National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam was quoted to have said in a PTI report.
"He was quite welcoming of the idea and said that he would look into it as to how this can be implemented," said Kumaramangalam at the launch of the campaign 'War Against Acid Violence' and a Trauma Informed Care Kit (TICK) supported by the Acid Survivors Foundation of India (ASFI).
She also vouched for the need to train the victims and rehabilitate them to make them self-dependent. "The acid attack survivors lack social support and people are not empathetic towards them. There is need to train them and rehabilitate them so that they can stand on their on own feet. Government and the private players need to step in to help them lead a normal life", she said.
"The acid attack survivors merely don't need sympathy. They need to have some sort of life where they can live with dignity and self-esteem. And this is what the society as a whole does not accord them," she said.
Kumaramangalam also stressed on the need to introduce stringent laws to stop acid attacks and implementation of existing laws to combat the heinous crime.
"We need to bring newer and tougher laws. In India we have quite many laws but they are not implemented properly. You see even though fast track courts have been set up for rape victims, the judgement is delayed," she said.
"There is immediate need to curtail the free sale of acids in the retail shops. Acid is freely available in our country. We need to look into the availability of acids and the manufacturers of acid. They don't bother about where these bottles end up," she said.
The newly launched TICK claims to be the first of its kind and introduces the first holistic methodology for tackling the trauma consequent to acid attacks. A presentation by ASFI depicted various aspects of acid attacks pointing to the alarming rate at which the acid attacks have increased in the last one year.
--with PTI inputs