Call for setting up mandatory council for disabled people
KARACHI: Representatives of physically and mentally challenged persons have demanded that the government implement the law on the welfare of people with disabilities and set up a council to rehabilitate such persons as required under the law.
Speaking to Dawn, they said that the Sindh Differently-abled Persons (Employment, Rehabilitation and Welfare) Act 2014 was passed by the provincial assembly four months ago. However, they pointed out, not a single step had been taken so far to implement the law.
“We had held meetings with officials of the social welfare department about three months ago to set up a body under the law that could address the many problems special people are facing. But, we are still waiting for a positive outcome,” said chairman of the Pakistan Disabled Foundation Shahid Memon.
According to Mr Memon, the different organisations working for special people’s welfare had welcomed the law when it was passed by the assembly as it had given them a message that the government was serious in attending their long-standing issues.
“The law is better than the earlier one; The Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance 1981. There seems to be an effort on part of the government to comprehensively cover the problems special people are facing in daily life. But, this is obviously not enough unless the law is implemented,” he said, regretting that special people had a lot of grievances over lack of implementation of the previous law.
One of the major complaints, he said, related to providing jobs to the disabled. “The job quota has been increased from one per cent to two per cent but the question remains over its implementation,” he said.
Voicing similar concerns, Riaz Memon, who works at the Chandka Special Education for Visually Handicapped Children, district Larkana and heads the Pakistan Association of the Blind-Sindh chapter, said that special people were unable to exploit their potential to the maximum because the government had been unable to ensure implementation of laws relating to their basic rights to education and employment.
“As I see it the new law has nothing significantly different from the old law. What is common in both cases, however, is little or no implementation,” he said.
It’s noteworthy that the act envisages constitution of a council with social welfare secretary as its chairman while secretaries of the labour, special education and rehabilitation department, representatives of health, planning and development, Auqaf and religious affairs and women development departments, the managing-director of the Sindh Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority, officials of the chamber of commerce and industry and registered trade unions, four persons engaged in welfare work for disabled persons and two MPAs as its members.
The council is meant to execute the policy made by the government for employment, rehabilitation and welfare of special people; undertake appropriate projects for their welfare; issue directives to any organisation to implement the council’s project; conduct medical examination and provide treatment to special persons and facilitate them in acquiring full concession in admission fee and relief of 75pc in tuition fee in government educational institutions.
The council is also required to facilitate in health insurance and free treatment at government health facilities; social security grant on monthly basis to the needy differently-abled persons and grant for the marriage of their children.
“Interest free loan to the needy in setting up small businesses as may be prescribed. Concession in cost of plots developed on land allotted by the government for incremental housing,” the 2014 act says on the council’s functions.
The ninth clause of the act says: “An establishment which does not employ a disabled person as required by section 8 (two per cent compulsory job quota for special persons), shall pay into the (government disabled persons rehabilitation) funds each month the sum of money it would have paid as salary or wages to the disabled persons had been employed.”
The government is directed under the law to establish a fund for special people’s rehabilitation. The fund is to be administered by the council and is to be utilised for setting up training centres, giving away financial assistance, disbursement of stipends or scholarships and provision of artificial limbs, surgical therapy and medical treatment.