In India, over 2.1 per cent of the total population is people with disabilities. Rural men had the highest prevalence of disability in India, according to the NSO report. A higher proportion of men were disabled in India than women, and disability was more prevalent in rural areas than in urban areas. The National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) mentioned a report titled 'Pandemic and People's Plight' that Persons with disabilities are less likely than others to be employed. They are more likely to be employed in the informal sector when employed. The fickle nature of their work makes them vulnerable. They have less access to social protection and productive assets than others, decreasing their economic resilience in contingencies, especially COVID-19. As a part of the informal economy workforce, they either survive on a meagre income or live in poverty. Their vulnerability stems from how they are perceived by society.
NCPEDP is the country's premier cross-disability, not-for-profit organization working as an interface between Government, Industry, International Agencies and the Voluntary Sector towards empowering persons with disabilities. Registered in 1996, Its mandate is simple – to encourage the employment of people with disabilities, increase public awareness on the issue of disability, empower people with disabilities with knowledge, information and opportunities and ensure easy and convenient access to all public places. NCPEDP works on six core principles, also called the six pillars of the organization, namely: 1) Education; 2) Employment; 3) Accessibility; 4) Legislation/Policy; 5) Awareness/Communication, and 6) Youth.
The Logical Indian spoke to the Executive Director of NCPEDP about the challenges of people with disabilities and how India could move ahead to uplift the standards of the vulnerable sectors.
How Is The Scenario In Jobs For People With Disability?
We did a survey back in 1999, and we found that less than 1 per cent of people with disability get any employment. When we tried to understand the cause, we found that hardly anyone with a disability can get an education. Moreover, the government of India data also shows that the enrollment rate of people with disabilities is 27 per cent at the primary level. Still, by the time they reach higher education level, the data shows the rate between zero to five per cent. The UNESCO Country report for education for India has also highlighted the vast dropout rate, which mentions that 75 per cent of students with disability drop out at the secondary level. Despite being a fundamental right, education remains inaccessible for people with disability.
Several corporates say they are becoming more inclusive for all kinds of people; what is your opinion on that?
When we speak about corporates, a lot has improved over the years. Things have improved, and there is a lot of noise about diversity hiring. However, most times, corporates cannot find candidates with the required qualifications. Large organizations would hardly have a few employees who have disabilities. We also cannot ignore the fact that they are urban-centric jobs and need specific skills to the table, and only a selected set of people can do it. Migration is a big issue for people living in rural areas, especially those with disabilities, because cities are primarily inaccessible.
How far do you think we have come as a country?
We have come a long way. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed us back by decades. Some global estimates talk about how 150 million people have fallen back into extreme poverty. People are earning less than $2 per day. India has one of the largest populations of disabled people in the world. When you ask where are we as a country, there is a lot of acknowledgement about people with disability, but there is no talk about the different kinds of disabilities. Ironically, some corporates look at disability hiring because of their CSR motives. Employing people with disability needs a lot of investment in making them a part of the team, helping them understand jobs and so on. A disability is not an advantage for you to get a job, and neither should it be a reason you are thrown out of a job.
Moreover, it should not just be an urban phenomenon, and it should be implemented universally. As a country, we have several laws in place advocating equal opportunity. Leaders in the job market have to start this discourse and look inwards, not outside.
How has the condition aggravated after the pandemic for people with disabilities?
For people with disabilities, the fight is for survival. They have to fight for their fundamental rights like education and jobs. During the pandemic, people from the vulnerable group suddenly lost their seats on the table. Any discussion with various stakeholders for equal participation and equal opportunity, and almost overnight, the world went on a work from a home model, and there were new SOPs. When the lockdowns are declared, disabilities are not thought of in the first instance. It is always an afterthought. The notices that come out on the government websites are not accessible to people, for example, the blind people who use screen reading software. Similarly, people who use sign language to communicate, if the order is not explained to them in their way, they remain oblivious to it.
What are the three solutions that you, as a representative for the disabled, will put forth if the government asks?
Firstly, there is a need to create awareness among every point of ministry or department. Essentially, it is not because the people do not want to help, they want to help, but the problem is that people do not know. There is a stigma around disabilities. Disabled people are also people like you and me, and they need facilities as any ordinary citizen does. Sometimes people perceive that their child is born disabled because of a past life sin, and people also abandon their newborns.
Secondly, I would speak about the accessibility of the facilities to the people with disability. All the infrastructure and the facilities that have been made for people with disabilities should be made accessible for them to use. Lastly, I would say education is also one of the most critical needs.