[Yojana May Summary] Empowering Divyangjan – Explained, pointwise

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The Prime Minister coined the term “Divyangjan” to address persons with disabilities. The rationale was to change the social attitude towards them and recognise their potential. The renaming has also helped put the issues related to divyangjan at the forefront of Government initiatives. India, being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, has rolled out numerous initiatives to uplift the position of divyangjan. These have attained a significant degree of progress, however much more needs to be done for creating an equitable and inclusive environment for them.

What is the meaning of disability?

The WHO defines disability as ‘any restriction or lack (resulting from an impairment) of ability to perform in a manner or within the range considered normal for a human being’. Disability is a complex concept and is difficult to define since it varies in type, form and intensity. The WHO notes down the impact of external factors by referring to disability as the interaction between individuals with a health condition (e.g., cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and depression) and personal and environmental factors (e.g., negative attitudes, inaccessible transportation and public buildings, and limited social supports).

The World Report on Disability, 2011 sums up various definitions of disability by stating ‘Disability is complex, dynamic, multidimensional, and contested’.

According to the WHO, one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability. The number of people experiencing disability is increasing due to a rise in chronic health conditions and population ageing. The prevalence of disability is higher in the developing countries; 80% of the persons with disability live in low- and middle-income countries.

As per Census 2011, in India, about 2.68 Cr persons are ‘disabled’ which is 2.21% of the total population. Out of 2.68 crore, 1.5 crore are males and 1.18 crore are females. Majority (69%) of the disabled population resided in rural areas. Among the State/ UTs, Sikkim has the highest prevalence of disability (2.98%). Daman and Diu has the lowest prevalence of disability (0.9%)

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What is the institutional framework to support the divyangjan?

Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DePwd): It is under the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and facilitates the empowerment of persons with disabilities.

The Department has 9 National Institutes and 21 Composite Regional Centres which are spread across 28 States/UTs. While each of the National Institutes works with respect to a specific category of disability, the Composite Regional Centres provide rehabilitation services across all categories of PwDs.

The National Institutes are related to Visual disabilities (Dehradun), Hearing disabilities (Mumbai), Intellectual disabilities (Secunderabad), Multiple disabilities (Chennai), Physical disabilities (New Delhi), Rehabilitation Training and Research (Cuttack), Locomotor Disabilities (Kolkata), Indian Sign Langauge Research & Training Centre (New Delhi) and Mental Health and Rehabilitation (Sehore, MP).

What are the problems faced by divyangjan?

Education: The education system is not inclusive. Inclusion of children with mild to moderate disabilities in regular schools has remained a major challenge.

Health: A large number of disabilities are preventable, including those arising from medical issues during birth, maternal conditions, malnutrition, as well as accidents and injuries. Yet lack of proper medical care fails to check these factors.

Employment: Even though many disabled adults are capable of productive work, disabled adults have far lower employment rates than the general population. The situation is worse in private sectors, where much less disabled persons are employed.

Accessibility: Physical accessibility in buildings, transportation, access to services remains a major challenge.

Discrimination/Social Exclusion: Negative attitudes held by the families of the disabled, and often the disabled themselves, hinder disabled persons from taking an active part in the family, community or workforce. People suffering from mental illness or mental retardation face the worst stigma and are subject to severe social exclusion.

Divyangjan Barriers to access healthcare for persons with disabilities WHO UPSC

What steps have been taken by the Government for the upliftment of divangjan?

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016: The act, increased the number of disabilities from 7 to 21. It made provision for reservation in higher education and government jobs. It mandated free education for children between 6 to 18 years. It also mandates the Government to take measures to promote health, education, skill development, and employment opportunities for PwDs. 

The Unique Disability Identity (UDID) Project: It aims to create a national database for Persons with Disability (PwD) and to issue a Disability Identity Card to such persons.

Accessible India Campaign: It focuses on accessibility in the built-up environment, transportation system, and ICT ecosystem.

Early Intervention Centres: These centres are equipped with facilities for screening at-risk cases, providing therapeutic services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, behavioural therapy, parental/peer counselling. They also provide preparatory schooling for enhancing the cognitive and physical abilities of children with disabilities.

Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre: It promotes the use of sign language and also to develop human resources in the field.

National Institute of Mental Health Rehabilitation (NIMHR): It aims to work towards capacity building in the field of mental health rehabilitation. It also aims to develop community-based rehabilitation protocols for mainstreaming persons with mental illness who have been successfully cured.

New Education Policy 2020: It is in tune with the provisions of the RPwD Act, 2016 and has the ingredients for inclusive education. The Policy is expected to ensure barrier-free access to education for children with disabilities.

Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase/Fitting of Aids and Appliances (ADIP) scheme: Under this aids and assistive devices are distributed to divyangjan to improve their mobility so that, apart from carrying out daily living activities independently, they can also go to work and earn a living.

Read More: Measures taken by the Government for the disabled community
What has been the progress of Government’s initiatives?

UDID: So far, around 70 lakh UDID cards have been generated in 715 districts across India.

Accessible India Campaign: Under the Campaign, about 577 State Government buildings and more than 1030 Central Government buildings have been made accessible. Further, 603 State Government websites and 95 Central Government websites have already been made accessible. Sugamya Bharat App has also been developed which is a mobile application for crowdsourcing problems related to accessibility.

Early Intervention Centres: 14 EICs have been set up at its National Institutes/Composite Regional Centres of DePwd. These are located in Delhi, Dehradun, Lucknow, Sundernagar, Patna, Bhopal, Mumbai, Kolkata, Cuttack, Rajnandgaon, Secunderabad, Nellore, Chennai, and Kozhikode.

Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre: The institute has so far developed about 10,000 sign language expressions of various words and phrases. It provides a reference point for various users and has become a boon for the deaf community. The institute has also signed an MoU with NCERT for converting the school curriculum of Class I to XII into Indian sign language.

ADIP Scheme: Since 2014-15, under this programme 11,973 camps were organised benefitting 21.90 lakh persons with disabilities across the country. The Government has also initiated a special recruitment drive for persons with disabilities in Central Government establishments and more than 14,000 vacancies have been filled, out of about 15,700 reported vacancies.

What further steps can be taken?

First, the government should move towards digitizing all existing manual certificates of disability onto the portal at the earliest possible time in consultation with the States and UTs.

Second, the government should work towards unleashing the talent among divyangjan. They are full of potential and hard work, evident from the fact that India won 19 medals including 5 Gold medals in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. The government should also ensure that platforms like Divya Kala Shakti are fully functional and accessible. It is a platform for showcasing the potential of PwDs in performing fine arts.

Third, Preventive health programs need to be strengthened and all children should be screened at a young age. Kerala has already started an early prevention programme. The Comprehensive Newborn Screening (CNS) programme seeks early identification of deficits in infants and reduces the state’s burden of disability.

Fourth, there should be more budgetary allocation for welfare of the disabled. There should be disability budgeting on the lines of gender budgeting.

Fifth, divyangjan need to be better integrated into society by overcoming stigma .There should be awareness campaigns to educate and aware people about different kinds of disability. Success stories of people with disabilities can be showcased to inculcate positive attitudes among people.


India has been known across the world as having a composite and inclusive culture since ancient times. Indian culture believes in inclusiveness, integration and harmony, and thrives on the principle of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. This makes it imperative for the government to work relentlessly for the empowerment of divyangjan.

Source: Yojana May 2022, WHO

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