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Committee on Persons with Disabilities reviews India’s initial report, asks about violence against persons with disabilities in institutions

Committee on the Rights of Persons
  with Disabilities

3 September 2019

Situation of Ethnic and Religious Minorities with Disabilities, and Efforts to Increase the Number of Children with Disabilities in Inclusive and Mainstream Education also Raised

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities this morning concluded its consideration of the initial report of India on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with Committee Experts raising various issues, including violence against persons with disabilities in institutions, the situation of ethnic and religious minorities with disabilities, and efforts to increase the number of children with disabilities in inclusive and mainstream education.

Violence against persons with disabilities in institutions, particularly women and girls with intellectual disabilities, was a normalized experience, Committee Experts highlighted during the dialogue with India. They denounced violations of the right to life of persons with disabilities, which included “mercy killings”, in particular of children with disabilities, and violence in institutions, which included all forms of psychical and sexual violence, forced treatment, forced contraception, and forced abortion, while significant barriers to reporting violence existed due to fears of retribution and reprisals.

Committee Experts commended the enactment of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act and the Mental Health Act, but were concerned about the gaps in their implementation, especially for persons with disabilities from ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities, including Dalits and those in rural and remote areas, who continued to suffer discrimination. Furthermore, the lack of recognition of legal capacity of persons with intellectual disabilities in the Mental Health Care Act put women and girls with intellectual disabilities at a great risk of forced institutionalization.

At the beginning of the meeting, Shakuntala Doley Gamlin, Secretary of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment of India, stressed that India’s commitment to the Convention had been translated into a comprehensive piece of legislation, the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, which had come into force in 2017.

The National and State Commission for Women, and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights had been set up. To ensure that persons with disabilities exercised legal capacity as per their will, support in the form of limited guardianship – a joint decision-making system - was available by a decision of the District Court or authority designated by the state governments.

According to the 2011 census figures, there were 27 million persons with disabilities in India, a figure that was likely to go up with the addition of new categories of disabilities. “Divyanjan”, a new term to address persons with disabilities given by the Prime Minister, meant “persons with divine or extraordinary abilities” and contributed to a visible and positive change in the perception of persons with disabilities.

The Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, an integrated scheme for school education, aimed to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education; it envisaged support to provinces in strengthening school infrastructure, in-service training of teachers, and support for libraries, sports, and psychical activities, Ms. Doley Gamlin said.

Ayushman Bharat: National Health Protection Scheme had been recently launched and envisaged covering 500 million people, including those with disabilities, while various schemes and programmes to prevent disabilities were in place. The Accessible India campaign, launched in 2015, had outlined targets for the creation of a barrier-free environment and to date, more than 1,600 Government buildings across the country had been audited for accessibility.

Other issues raised by Committee Experts included access of persons with disabilities to medical services in Jammu and Kashmir; the exclusion of persons with disabilities from the national registry of citizens in the state of Assam; discrimination and stigma against people with leprosy; lack of recognition of and attention to intersecting and multiple forms of discrimination against women and girls with disabilities; and the efforts to increase the number of children with disabilities in inclusive and mainstream education, especially in remote and rural areas.

In response, the delegation of India said that all the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, its benefits and protections, were applicable across the country, including in Jammu and Kashmir, where all health institutions at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels were functioning properly and were fully staffed with doctors and paramedics. All drugs, including life-saving ones such as insulin, were available in every hospital. As for the situation of citizenship in the state of Assam and legal aid for persons with disabilities there, the delegation said that the Government provided free legal assistance to those individuals who had been excluded from the lists and who wished to appeal. Furthermore, it had provisioned to extend legal aid to the needy.

A representative of the National Human Rights Commission of India highlighted the need to harmonize with the Convention the National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation, and Multiple Disabilities Act of 1999, which was based on the principle of substituted decision-making. Also in need of harmonization was the Rehabilitation Council of India Act of 1992 to ensure that persons with disabilities were not subjects of care and protection but active participants in the decision-making process that directly affected them.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Doley Gamlin said that, given the size and diversity of the population, more remained to be done to adequately and fully implement the Convention. India was working towards an inclusive development that aimed to leave no one behind, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Risnawati Utami, Committee Co-Rapporteur for India, in her concluding remarks, urged India to ensure the comprehensive implementation of the Convention, in particular for the Dalits, ethnic and religious minorities, persons affected by leprosy, deaf-blind, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals.

The delegation of India was composed of the representatives of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, National Federation of Blind, and the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage, where the concluding observations and recommendations on the report of India will be available at the end of the session on 20 September.

The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed here.

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. this afternoon to consider the initial report of Greece (CRPD/C/GRC/1).

Report

The Committee has before it the initial report of India (CRPD/C/IND/1).

Presentation of the Report

SHAKUNTALA DOLEY GAMLIN, Secretary of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment of India, in her introductory remarks, said that India had recently concluded a historic and most inclusive general election in which polling stations had been made accessible to ensure that all could exercise their right to vote. The country’s commitment to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had been translated into a comprehensive piece of legislation, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act – it had come into force in 2017 and ensured, inter alia, the right to equality and non-discrimination, community life, protection from cruelty and exploitation, and reproductive rights.

The National and State Commission for Women and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights had been set up. To ensure that persons with disabilities exercised legal capacity as per their will, support in the form of limited guardianship – a system of joint decision-making process - was available by a decision of the District Court or authority designated by the State Governments.

According to the latest census figures of 2011, Ms. Doley Gamlin continued, there were 27 million persons with disabilities in India, a figure that was likely to go up with the addition of new categories of disabilities. The Act recognized 21 categories of disabilities, she said, and informed the Committee that the Prime Minister of India had given a new name to address persons with disabilities - “Divyanjan”, which meant persons with divine or extraordinary abilities. It contributed to a visible and positive change in perception among persons with disabilities themselves and the society.

Among important affirmative actions under the Act were the four per cent reservation in Government jobs for persons with disabilities, five per cent reservation of seats for students with disabilities in Government and Government-aided higher educational institutions, and five per cent reservation in poverty alleviation schemes and allotments of land for housing.

India was working on creating a congenial environment for inclusive education, said Ms. Doley Gamlin. The Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan was an integrated scheme for school education which aimed to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and envisaged support to provinces in strengthening school infrastructure, in-service training of teachers, and support for libraries, sports, and psychical activities.

Ayushman Bharat, the National Health Protection Scheme, had been recently launched and envisaged covering 500 million persons, including those with disabilities, while various schemes and programmes to prevent disabilities were in place.

The Unique Disability ID project aimed to create a national database of persons with disabilities, which provided real-time data and enabled planners to take measures to improve their inclusion and empowerment. To date, the project had been implemented in 35 States covering more than 570 districts.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act was prepared in 2016 and contained a special focus on the creation of a barrier-free environment and mandated the Government to frame rules and standards of accessibility for a built-in environment, transport system, information and communication technology, and other facilities and services. All existing public buildings had to comply with the accessibility standards within five years and all service providers were required to adhere with the standards within two years.

The Accessible India campaign, launched in 2015, had outlined targets for the creation of a barrier-free environment and to date, more than 1,600 Government buildings across the country had been audited for accessibility.

Persons with disabilities were, and would continue to be, an integral part of India’s progress towards inclusive growth, stressed Ms. Doley Gamlin. Seven national institutes were dedicated to specialized domains for different types of disabilities, to promote research, training, and delivery of services to persons with disabilities. An Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre had been set up to promote training, research, and standardization of sign language; it had launched an Indian sign language dictionary which contained 6,000 modes of expression.

India was the fastest growing among large economies in the world. In the last two decades it had lifted millions and millions of people out of poverty, creating a huge middle-class population in the process. A reduction in the hardships faced by persons with disabilities was the natural outcome of this process of economic development, which was supported by targeted schemes, programmes, and affirmative action in favour of persons with disabilities, concluded Ms. Doley Gamlin.

Questions from the Experts

MONTHIAN BUNTAN, Committee Rapporteur for India, noted that being the fastest growing among large economies in the world did not necessarily mean inclusive and good quality life for all. India’s great diversity - cultural, religious, ethnic and linguistic – meant that it was particularly hard to comprehensively implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities throughout the national territory overnight.

The enactment in 2017 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 and the Mental Health Act of 2017 represented major legal achievements and could serve as a role model for many countries, the Rapporteur said. Still, the implementation of this outstanding legislation raised many questions, and this would be the major theme of the discussion with the delegation of India.

Among the major issues was the lack of explicit reference to the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of disability in the Constitution of India; the ongoing practice of the medical model of disability assessment and the use of derogatory terms to refer to disability and persons with disabilities in legal and policy documents, including on the Government’s own websites; and slow progress in the harmonization of laws and policies with the Convention, including those that restricted or completely removed legal capacity of persons with disabilities.

The Rapporteur also denounced the lack of recognition of multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination; the lack of recognition of legal capacity of persons with intellectual disabilities in the Mental Health Care Act 2017, which put women and girls with intellectual disabilities at a great risk of forced institutionalization; and the lack of participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations of persons with disabilities in the creation, implementation and monitoring of law and policies that concerned them.

Finally, Mr. Buntan expressed hope that the interactive dialogue would lead to a full recognition, full respect, and full guarantee of all rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities in India.

DANLAMI UMARU BASHARU, Committee Chairperson, commended the very progressive Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, but raised concern that it did not guarantee the full enjoyment of the right to equality and non-discrimination. The Chair further raised concern about persons with intellectual disabilities in Kashmir, who were being killed on the suspicion of being militants – what instructions were being given to security agents in Kashmir in this regard?

Another Expert asked the delegation about measures taken to tackle discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities living with disabilities.

On the rights of children with disabilities, the delegation was asked about concrete steps taken to address multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against girls with disabilities, to guarantee the right of children with disabilities to live with their parents and their right to community life, the protection of children with disabilities against corporal punishment including under the 2007 Juvenile Act, and steps taken to ensure accessibility of schools.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 was definitely a landmark law but many structures that it had provided for had not yet been implemented. What was being done to ensure that “this good law” was being implemented throughout the State and that persons with disabilities were implicated in this process?

The delegation was asked to comment on the provision of reasonable accommodation and explain how persons with disabilities could file a complaint of discrimination; measures taken to raise awareness about the rights of persons with disabilities and to do away with stigma, particularly in relation to people living with leprosy and persons with intellectual disabilities; and, in the context of the national database and register of persons with disabilities, the safeguards to protect their privacy.

RISNAWATI UTAMI, Committee Co-Rapporteur for India, asked the delegation about women with disabilities and their access to health services and treatments, and in particular whether women with intellectual disabilities had adequate access to sexual and reproductive health services and treatment.

The Experts also asked about the efforts to harmonize the Pregnancy Act 1971 with the Convention; the inclusion of children with disabilities in the 2009 Child Protection Scheme, in particular children living in rural and hard to reach areas; and whether India would expand the field of application of sign language by giving it the status of an official language. How many sign language interpreters were there, including in rural areas? Were deaf people really denied the right to obtain a driving licence?

Responses by the Delegation

SHAKUNTALA DOLEY GAMLIN, Secretary of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment of India, stressed that the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act was universally applicable throughout the country and that no province was excluded from its scope.

Ms. Doley Gamlin, in response to questions about the killing of persons with intellectual disabilities in Kashmir, categorically stated that there was no armed conflict in any part of the country and that all laws, including the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, were equally applicable in all provinces, including in Jammu and Kashmir.

Leprosy was recognized as a disability and it no longer represented grounds for divorce.

The Indian Sign Language Institute offered diploma and degree courses in sign language interpretation and there were currently more than 200 sign language interpreters. All information and broadcasting outlets were under obligation to make their programmes accessible to persons with disabilities.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act provided for universal inclusion, but for reasons beyond the control of the Act or the Constitution, a person with disabilities could be excluded. In this case, the person had the right to be informed about the background and reason for exclusion, which would be appealed to the Chief Commissioner for Disabilities.

There was swift action to any abuse or any violation of the rights of a child with disabilities; remedial action was provided within 30 days of the notice of such violations.

In a federal country like India, state and local authorities also needed to be sensitized on the rights of persons with disabilities so that barriers were not created. Barriers and discrimination were in the mind of the society and community. Civil society organizations were valuable partners in the decision-making processes and persons with disabilities, women, minorities, and marginalized groups were represented.

Another delegate explained that before the adoption of the term “Divyanjan”, the term for persons with disabilities that was in use meant “a person with no ability, a weak person”. Such a term was reflective of the society’s negative mind set, which was the greatest stumbling block and the greatest barrier to the full enjoyment of all rights by persons with disabilities. The Prime Minister had introduced the new term to give a jolt to that negative mind-set and transform the image of a person with disabilities as a person without any ability into a person with hidden capacities.

Persons with disabilities and their representative organizations had been actively involved in the enactment of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act and consultations had taken place at regional and state levels.

Airports had been made accessible, while railways had been made accessible in at least 12 features that were very important for travellers with disabilities. Over 100 public service websites would be soon be launched in their accessible forms and the Government was ensuring that accessibility standards were being adhered to by the private sector too.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act provided for the creation of the Central Advisory Board, the highest policy body for disability issues, composed of 101 members and chaired by the Minister of Social Justice. Ten of the members were persons with disabilities, and half were women with disabilities. Each State had an independent State Commissioner for persons with disabilities who monitored the implementation of the provisions of the Act.

Under the Awareness Generation Programme, India provided grants to civil society organizations in all areas of the country to disseminate policies and schemes available to persons with disabilities.

It was not possible for any medical procedure to be conducted on a woman, including women with disabilities, without her explicit and informed consent. The National Commission for Women looked after the interests and rights of all women, including those with disabilities.

India paid particular attention to the rehabilitation of children with disabilities, including community and home-based rehabilitation and early intervention. The National Trust for children with autism and cerebral palsy was in place and there were various forms of educational and vocational training for children with disabilities.

The National Disaster Management Authority had developed guidelines and protocols for the rescue of persons with disabilities in disasters and emergencies. Persons with disabilities enjoyed the right of rescue first.

Questions from the Experts

Psychosocial and intellectual disability were as different from each other as fingerprints; they needed different kinds of reasonable accommodation. What was being done to raise awareness and increase an understanding about these differences.

The Experts raised concern about the use of derogatory language in laws and policies.

Violence against persons with disabilities in institutions, particularly women and girls with intellectual disabilities, was a normalized experience and included all forms of psychical and sexual violence, forced treatment, forced contraception, and forced abortion. Significant barriers to reporting violence existed due to fears of retribution and reprisals.

What were the policies, measures, and budgets to prevent violence against children with disabilities in institutions, as well as to deinstitutionalize such children and provide them with a safe family setting in the community?

What was being done to legally and practically address violence against women with disabilities, promote and fund rehabilitative and protective services, and empower women with disabilities.

The Committee expressed concern about unnatural deaths of persons with disabilities in institutions, mercy killings, and other practices against persons with disabilities, particularly children, and asked about the situation of persons with disabilities, particularly women and children, belonging to ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities, including Dalits, persons affected by leprosy, and deaf-blind.

Social barriers to access to justice arose from the intersection of judicial and forensic procedures and some social norms, the Experts noted, and asked the delegation to inform on concrete steps taken to ensure access to justice for persons with disabilities under any circumstance.

On the denial of legal capacity, what was the duration of decisions revoking legal capacity and were they ever reviewed? What was being done to bring the Mental Health Act into compliance with the Convention and the social model of disability, and to prohibit involuntary institutionalization and forced medication? When would India sign the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment?

The delegation was asked to explain what it was doing to ensure that the national register of citizens in the state of Assam was accessible to persons with disabilities and that persons with disabilities had adequate support in completing their citizenship process or in defending their right to citizenship.

The Internet services in Jammu and Kashmir had been blocked for a long time and the free movement of persons was seriously restricted. According to the New York Times on 14 August, the access to medication was severely restricted. What measures were being taken to ensure unfettered access to medical care and the availability of medication for persons with disabilities during the blockade of Jammu and Kashmir?

Responses by the Delegation

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act recognized 21 categories of disabilities, which ensured that psychosocial and intellectual disabilities were adequately captured. There was a fine line between mental health care and mental health rehabilitation and the two could not be divorced but had to work together.

India had witnessed the importance of early intervention, with the support of parents, teachers, and communities. The authorities were working on ensuring early intervention and comprehensive early rehabilitative services at the district level.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act mandated the Government to take steps to protect persons with disabilities, women and children in particular, from all forms of abuse, violence and exploitation. It included the provision of protective custody, if needed, and any police officer who received a complaint or news of abuse of any person with disabilities was under the obligation to inform the person of his or her right to apply for protection.

Intentional insult with intent to humiliate a person with disabilities in any public place, as well as the use of violence against a person with disabilities, including denial of food or water, were punishable by imprisonment and a fine.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act was applicable throughout the national territory but disabilities as a subject of the Constitution was primarily the responsibility of the state governments and local bodies, which provided overall leadership and the vision of systemic changes required to fully implement the Act. To date, 20 states had adopted the rules on the rights of persons with disabilities through their assemblies.
SHAKUNTALA DOLEY GAMLIN, Secretary of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment of India, agreed with the Committee Experts that the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 was very much in line with the commitments her country had made by ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The India Rehabilitation Scheme was a comprehensive programme that aimed to extend vocational rehabilitation and school education facilities to persons with disabilities.

Another delegate stressed that the physical empowerment of persons with disabilities eventually led to their social, educational, economic and psychological empowerment as well. Such a scheme had been in place since the 1980s, under which different types of aid and assistive devices had been provided to persons with disabilities, in a very transparent manner. In 2014, the scheme had been revised to take into consideration the advancement in science and technology and to bring into its ambit modern assistive devices such smart phones.

Children with hearing disabilities up to the age of six could benefit under the cochlear implant programme. Over the last four years, about 1,000 children had had cochlear implant surgeries and had “become normal children” who led totally normal lives.

In 2014, the Indian Government had started organizing camps for the distribution of aid and assistive devices all over the country. A total of 7,824 camps had been organized to date, from which over 13 million persons with disabilities had benefited. A memorandum of understanding had been signed with a British company in 2018 for the provision of high-quality wheelchairs with the latest technology, which would be made available to persons with disabilities during the year.

Turning to the participation and representation of persons with disabilities, the delegate stressed the importance of the Office of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, which monitored the implementation of the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016. The Chief Commissioner was assisted by two commissioners, one of which had to be a person with disabilities. Other organizations were in place too which ensured the representation of persons with disabilities.

SHAKUNTALA DOLEY GAMLIN, Secretary of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment of India, stressed the constitutional obligation placed upon the Government to ensure that the operation of the legal system promoted justice. It also had an obligation to provide legal aid to persons in need. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 recognized access to justice as a right of persons with disabilities.

Two programmes were in place to mainstream legal aid through common service centres, while another provided legal aid through pro bono advocates to eligible persons. More than 6,000 persons with disabilities had received court-based legal aid and services from April 2017 to March 2018. The websites of the Ministry of Justice and all the courts were accessible.

The concept of limited guardianship as embodied in the Act was based on the principle of supported decision-making. It had been decided upon during consultations across the country which included persons with disabilities. There was no consensus in the country as to the best approach, she emphasized.

In response to the question on the availability of medicines in Jammu and Kashmir, the Head of the Delegation stressed that the Government of India followed an equitable principle in looking after all its citizens, including persons with disabilities, irrespective of their residence or state of origin.

All the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, its benefits and protections, were applicable across the country, including in Jammu and Kashmir, where all health institutions at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels were functioning properly and were fully staffed with doctors and paramedics. All drugs, including life-saving ones such as insulin, were available in every hospital. In August 2019, nearly 70,000 patients had visited emergency departments and nearly 49,000 major and minor surgeries had been performed – such data showed the magnitude of health services delivery in Jammu and Kashmir.

India was discussing putting the term “mental retardation” out of use and remained open to examining the use of terminology concerning mental illness.

India remained committed to ratifying the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and had engaged all stakeholders in the consultations. The Law Commission of India had been requested to issue recommendations on the enabling legislation that would allow the country to ratify the Convention. Its non-ratification did not mean that there was inadequate protection from torture under the national legislation.

Indian laws prohibited torture and the right to life was enshrined in the Constitution. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 itself provided for the protection of persons with disabilities from violence and also provided for penal sanctions for such acts.

Turning to the abandonment of children with disabilities, Ms. Doley Gamlin stressed that parents had the responsibility to take care of their children, including those with disabilities. It was only under exceptional circumstances that children with disabilities could be placed in shelter homes. The Government provided support to families with disabled children, to lessen the economic burden.

Responding to concerns raised about legal aid for persons with disabilities in the state of Assam in the matter of the national registry of citizens, the Head of the Delegation said that the Government provided free legal assistance to those individuals who had been excluded from the lists and who wished to appeal. Furthermore, it had provisioned to extend legal aid to the needy.

Questions from the Experts

In the final round of questions, Committee Experts stressed the right of persons with disabilities to the protection of their privacy and the right to a home and family life, and asked about the efforts to harmonize laws on marriage and family with the Convention. What measures were being taken to prevent the abandonment of children with disabilities by their parents?

How did India ensure the right of girls with disabilities to education and what was it doing to eradicate illiteracy among women and girls with disabilities?

Experts commended India for a large number of students with disabilities in mainstream education but raised concern that many children with disabilities still lacked access to inclusive education for various reasons, including inaccessibility of school buildings and lack of training of teachers on inclusive education.

The official data and statistics indicated the prevalence of disability of three per cent, while according to the World Health Organization, the rate was 15 per cent, and even higher in developing countries where it stood at 22 per cent. This indicated that India was not capturing data on all the individuals who needed support. What was being done to ensure that all persons with disabilities in the country did not miss out on essential services and benefits?

MONTHIAN BUNTAN, Committee Rapporteur for India, noted that India had not reached the quota for the employment of persons with disabilities and asked about measures to protect women with disabilities from sexual harassment in the workplace. Would India consider the revision of the Constitution to allow persons with certain disabilities to exercise their right to vote, such as persons of “unsound mind”.

Responses by the Delegation

India was developing the very first Centre for Disability in Sports – for which the Cabinet had already issued the approval – that would have facilities for both adaptive and integrative sports, for trainings of athletes with disabilities, and for sporting competitions. Another four centres would be built in the regions.

India recognized the International Day of Sign Language and was celebrating the Sign Language Day on 28 September. On this occasion, India was launching a new diploma in sign language teaching and education.

There were organizations made up of persons with disabilities working for persons with disabilities, as well as organizations working for persons with disabilities. The Government of India was providing grants to both to ensure support and services for persons with disabilities.

Every child had the right to free quality education up to the age of 18 in the nearest school or in a special school of his or her choice. The Government of India was a primary source of funding for special schools, a delegate said, and had taken steps to improve the situation, starting from increasing teachers’ pay. This would hopefully go a long way to improve the quality of education in special schools, which catered to visually impaired persons, hearing impaired persons, persons with cerebral palsy, and persons with intellectual disability.

India had launched a national health insurance programme in 2018/19 which provided free secondary and tertiary health care and services to 100 million poor and vulnerable families, as per the latest social, economic, and cast census data. Comprehensive health treatment through more than 11,000 health centres was provided to all children with developmental delays, while public health services were provided free of charge to all persons with disabilities.

Concluding Remarks

SHAKUNTALA DOLEY GAMLIN, Secretary of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment of India, in her concluding remarks, stressed that the Convention was bringing about positive change in the understanding of disability issues nationally and globally and that India had a strong and comprehensive law on the rights of persons with disabilities which embodied the principles of the treaty.

Given the size of the population and its diversity, India was aware that more remained to be done to adequately and fully implement the Convention and was working towards an inclusive development that aimed to leave no one behind, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

National Human Rights Commission of India said that its engagement on disability issues had expanded and evolved, from working on a handful of issues to forming core groups dedicated to the review of the Government’s policies and legislation on disability and their implementation across the country.

The National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation, and Multiple Disabilities Act of 1999 was based on the principle of substituted decision-making and needed to be harmonized with the Convention and its requirement for supported decision-making.

The Rehabilitation Council of India Act of 1992 also needed to be harmonized to ensure that persons with disabilities were not restricted to being subjects of care and protection but were active participants in the decision-making processes that directly affected them.

RISNAWATI UTAMI, Committee Co-Rapporteur for India, in her concluding remarks, said that the Committee was aware of the challenge posed by the diversity of persons with disabilities in India for the comprehensive implementation of the Convention, and mentioned in particular the Dalits, ethnic and religious minorities, people affected by leprosy, deaf-blind, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals.

DANLAMI UMARU BASHARU, Committee Chairperson, concluded by thanking the delegation for their constructive engagement with the Committee which, together with the concluding observations, would hopefully assist India in the implementation of the Convention throughout its territory.

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