On Friday, the last day of the Winter Session, the Lok Sabha passed the Disabilities Bill which was cleared by the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. The Lok Sabha passed the bill within two hours after a short debate.
The treasury and opposition benches, who have been at loggerheads over demonetisation and other issues, joined hands to clear the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016, which stipulates up to two year jail term and a maximum fine of Rs 5 lakh for discriminating against differently-abled persons.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the House when the bill was cleared.
Replying to the debate, Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot announced that a scheme of ‘universal identity card for the disabled’ is on the anvil and an agency has already been finalised for the purpose. The proposed card would be linked to the Aadhar card to help the specially disabled, he said.
Gehlot also said the government has joined hands with German and British firms for making available state-of-the-art limbs to the disabled wherever possible.
The Lok Sabha witnessed a division on an amendment by Congress and TRS members seeking to raise the reservation in the bill from 4 to 5 per cent. It was defeated by 121 to 43 votes. KC Venugopal of the Congress who had given the amendment pressed for the division.
Members from both sides supported the bill but suggested certain changes to improve the measure.
Interestingly, the bill had been originally moved in 2014 in Rajya Sabha by then Union minister Mallikarjun Kharge who is now Leader of Congress party in Lok Sabha.
The bill, which aims at securing and enhancing the rights and entitlements of disabled persons, also gives effect to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and related matters.
It provides for imprisonment of at least six months up to two years, along with a fine ranging between Rs 10,000 and Rs 5 lakh for discriminating against differently-abled persons. Moving the bill for consideration and passage today, Gehlot said out of 82 recommendations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee, 59 were accepted by the Government.
The bill, he said, has increased the number of categories of disabled persons to 21. The categories now include mental illness, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, chronic neurological conditions.
The Union Cabinet had earlier approved these amendments to the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (RPWD) Bill, 2014, that had replaced the 1995 Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act.
The bill was examined by the Parliamentary Standing Committee last year. Then, a Group of Ministers, headed by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, examined its provisions and sent their recommendations to the Prime Minister’s Office.
(With inputs from PTI)