NSDF Advocates For Disability Rights And Inclusion In Manifestos - Eastern Mirror
Tuesday, May 21, 2024

NSDF advocates for disability rights and inclusion in manifestos

By Menuse-O Max Khieya Updated: Apr 08, 2024 11:35 pm
Vikengunu Fatima Kera, Ashe Kiba, Ngaugongbe and other NSDF members during the press conference in Kohima on Monday. (EM Images)

KOHIMA — The Nagaland State Disability Forum (NSDF) on Monday stated that the disabled segment of society faces consistent marginalisation in all aspects of life, including the electoral process, as their concerns are often absent from election agendas and manifestos.

During a press conference in Kohima, the forum drew attention to the nationwide disability manifesto developed by the disability community, which outlines the essential needs of persons with disabilities (PwDs) that any incoming government must address or prioritise.

It urged all candidates and political parties in Nagaland to recognise their demands and advocate for the disability community as an integral part of Naga society.

Ahead of the 2024 general election, president of NSDF, Vikengunu Fatima Kera, said that the forum is a aligning with the nationwide ‘manifesto for and by citizens with disabilities’ initiated by the National Disability Network and National Committee on Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The key demands in the manifesto include a 5% budget allocation for disability and ensuring affordable health insurance for all persons with disabilities, among others.

Recognising Nagaland’s meagre progress in terms of rights of persons with disabilities and the need for collaborative efforts to address disability issues and enhance societal well-being, Kera said that their NGO, founded by individuals with disabilities in 2014, endeavors to mobilise disabled individuals from every district.

Kera said that the 2011 census figure of 29,361 disabled individuals in Nagaland, is likely an underestimate as the national figure indicates that the disability population in India comprises 2.21% of the total population, equivalent to 26.8 million people.

Calling for political parties to prioritise the inclusion of PwDs in the development agenda, she cited challenges due to non-inclusive policies, and said that their demand includes a health insurance scheme, aligned with Ayushman Bharat, to address high treatment costs and lack of awareness about government insurance schemes.

Ashe Kiba, NSDF’s general secretary, urged parties for full accessibility within three years and demanded businesses to mandate accessibility while calling for inclusive guidelines for app-based cab services by 2026.

Commending the Election Commission’s efforts to assist disabled voters but noted the inadequacy of disability-friendly infrastructure, she also advocated for standardised social security, including a monthly pension of INR 5000 for all disabled individuals.

Kiba emphasised the importance of recognising the needs of PwDs and urged all candidates in Nagaland to prioritise their demands for the 2024 general elections. Highlighting their significant contribution to society, she urged representatives to advocate for the inclusion of the disability community in the manifesto and also stressed on priority inclusion of PwDs in social security schemes like PM Awas Yojana and MGNREGA.

Further, she put forward their demand for amending Article 15 to prevent discrimination and implementing 5% reservation for disabled individuals, in addition to appointing at least one disabled individual in nominated positions outlined in Article 80.

She urged for increased job opportunities for PwDs and filling up of all backlog vacancies across ministries and departments by 2027. She also called for implementation of the ‘access to work’ incentive scheme and inclusion in entrepreneurship and skill development programmes, ensuring compliance with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act’s 4% reservation mandate.

Ngaugongbe, joint secretary at NSDF, emphasised the disproportionate impact of climate change on disabled individuals, citing heightened vulnerability during natural disasters and increased health risks, while highlighting economic and social challenges faced by PwDs during disasters.

Stating that inclusive education is crucial for equal opportunities, he highlighted challenges like lack of physical accessibility and inadequate support services, hindering the learning process for disabled children in Nagaland.

He also called for budget allocation for paralympic sports in Nagaland and addressing gender disparities, particularly for women with disabilities, to ensure their social and economic security.

NSDF to visit candidates

The forum highlighted the challenges faced by disabled individuals in the state, particularly regarding the inadequate INR 300 monthly pension. It said that the irregular distribution and insufficient amount of this pension, adds financial strain and fails to meet basic needs, leaving many feeling insulted and lacking dignity and support.

The NSDF also outlined their plan to meet with the three candidates of the Nagaland parliamentary constituency to discuss their concerns and raise awareness about disability issues.

Approximately 6,600 persons with disabilities are registered in Nagaland’s electoral rolls, but their challenges are often overlooked, the forum said, underscoring that political engagement is needed to address their concerns effectively. It also stressed the importance of involving disabled individuals in decision-making processes and policy formulation.

Furthermore, the state disability community advocated for the establishment of a separate state department to address their issues, emphasising the need for focused initiatives and tailored advocacy efforts, and urged for sign language interpreters and communication support in government discussions.

During the press conference, A Eliza Chishi, a deaf chaplain and sign language interpreter, provided interpretation for the entire discourse for visually and hearing impaired attendees.

By Menuse-O Max Khieya Updated: Apr 08, 2024 11:35:38 pm
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