Bhubaneswar, April 27: Cutting across different kinds of disabilities, different organizations, associations and networks working for the cause of the disabled, a huge gathering in Bhubaneswar demanded cancellation of the newly appointed State Commissioner for Persons with Disability (SCPD) in Odisha. “We, the 12.44 lakh persons with disability demand the immediate cancellation of the appointment of the new Commissioner’’, was the underlined statement of this meeting.
“Let not precedence be set that SCPD position is one of ‘political rehabilitation’. We are protesting against the authoritarian ways of a popularly elected government. This is the third tenure since SCPD is being appointed. The previous two were held by a non-disabled persons and both were BJD party members but at least had long years of experience in disability sector. The present incumbent SCPD, Smt Minoti Behera, has neither educational qualification nor the required exposure and experience, but is only a BJD party candidate. If this trend continues then a precedence will be set that this position is meant for a ‘Party Loyalists’ or is just a ‘Political Rehabilitation Seat’ and the very purpose of the position will be diluted and lost.
If we look at Section 62 of PWD Act 1995, SCPD’s main action is understandably against the Government as they are most bound by the provisions by the PWD Act.
Section 62 of the Act says—“The Commissioner is to look into complaints with respect to matters relating to deprivation of rights of persons with disabilities. Without prejudice to the provisions of section 61, the Commissioner may of his own motion or on the application of any aggrieved person or otherwise look into complaints with respect to matters relating to-
(a) deprivation of rights of persons with disabilities;
(b) non-implementation of laws, rules, by-laws, regulations, executive orders, guidelines or instructions made or issued by the appropriate Governments and the local authorities for the welfare and protection of rights of persons with disabilities.
Can a party loyalist ever question and monitor the government’s actions, when that very party is in power?’’, said the Program Manager, Asit Kumar Behera, of the Disability Information & Resource Centre, Swabhimaan, talking to this Correspondent of the ONI.
Swabhimaan has evolved to become the lead organization working towards self-determination, providing equal opportunities and fighting for the self-respect of the disabled people in Odisha. The mass protest of the disabled in Bhubaneswar was also organized by Swabhimaan and it got overwhelming response.
More than 150 persons with disabilities, their family members, organizations and rehabilitation professionals drawn from 24 districts of the state joined hands to demand cancellation of the appointment of State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities. It was unanimously decided to present a memorandum to the Chief Minister, Minister W&CD, Minister Disability, Leader of the opposition and Leader of National political parties, to this effect.
Unanimously the house agreed on the following two demands-
*Cancellation of the appointment
*Immediate appointment of a suitable candidate.
It was decided that government would be given time till 30th April , failing which the decision would be challenged in the Court of Law. Apart from Swabhimaan, the leading organizations present were — Parents Association, Odisha, OSDN, OVM, National Forum for Leprosy, Odisha , ODPF, Odisha State Disability Rights Action Committee, OUAD and LEPRA INDIA.