A legislation on transgenders' welfare and implementation of measures for the disabled were some of the high points of the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry in 2019 but it received flak for poor execution of a scheme related to scavengers.
A parliamentary standing committee wanted the ministry to take the scheme concerning liberation and rehabilitation of scavengers "very seriously" while implementing.
It also expressed its displeasure to the department of empowerment of persons with disabilities for under utilising funds for various schemes during 2017-2018 and 2018-2019.
Secretary in the department of empowerment of persons with disabilities Shakuntala Gamlin said in the disability sector "rehabilitation is a priority in view of increasing disease burden.
"Both medical and rehabilitation models should go hand in hand," she said.
According to official sources, besides continuing the ongoing schemes for the disabled welfare during 2019, the department of empowerment of persons with disabilities also worked on accessible India campaign in rail, air and road sectors (for easy accessibility for disabled) and in information and communication technology (websites and TV viewing).
The department also took note of the increasing disability burden of psycho-social, intellectual and learning disabilities. "The department will set up early intervention centres in all its national institutes and composite regional centres to reduce the disability burden," a source said.
"In the coming years we will witness visible positive changes in the implementation of the rights of persons with disability act through the implementing agencies of the states/UTs", the source said.
Officials claimed that ministry's major achievement this year was the enactment of The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 though the transgender community termed the legislation discriminatory.
The Lok Sabha gave its nod to the related bill on August 5 and Rajya Sabha on November 26. The President gave his assent on Dec.5.
The Act will make all the stakeholders responsive and accountable for upholding the principles underlying the legislation.
It will bring greater accountability to governments for issues concerning transgenders and will benefit a large number of the community, mitigate the stigma, discrimination and abuse against those marginalised section and bring them into the mainstream of the society.
Ministry officials are hopeful that the new legislation will lead to greater inclusiveness and will make transgenders productive members of the society.
The ministry also introduced the much awaited bill to amend the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 in Lok Sabha.
According to the bill, those who intentionally abuse parents or senior citizens under their care and protection or abandon them may be sentenced to six months imprisonment or fined Rs.10,000 or both.
Another notable achievement of the ministry was the assistance provided to 4,98,247 people since 2014-2015 under the prevention of alcoholism and substance (drug) abuse scheme.
The ministry assigned the National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance (Drugs) Abuse in India to National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC), AIIMS, New Delhi, which was completed in 2019.
It also prepared and is implementing the National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (NAPDDR) for 2018-2025. The plan aims at reduction of adverse consequences of drug abuse through a multi-pronged strategy involving education, de-addiction and rehabilitation of affected individuals and their families.
During 2019, the cabinet approved establishment of a National Institute of Mental Health Rehabilitation (NIMHR) on a 25 acre land at Sehore, Madhya Pradesh.
The NIMHR was registered as a society on May 28. Its objective is to promote mental health rehabilitation using an integrated multi-disciplinary approach and developing trained professionals in the area of mental health rehabilitation.
The institute provides rehabilitation and clinical services and also runs Certificate Course on Care Giving (CCCG).
Another highlight this year was India's first country report on status of disability and implementation of UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), submitted in November 2015, was considered and successfully adopted by UN on September 3 along with certain recommendations.
The ministry's Dr. Ambedkar International Centre (DAIC) signed an agreement with the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) in June to empower SC/S through research on Dalit entrepreneurship, empowerment, skill development capacity building among SC/ST women and youth, impact of different schemes of the government on socio-economic conditions of SC/ST and other similar subjects.
A dampener for the ministry was the parliamentary standing committee asking it to implement the self employment scheme of liberation and rehabilitation of scavengers "very seriously".
"The committee is pained that manual scavenging is still prevalent in the urban areas" and "every now and then news of deaths of scavengers while manually cleaning the manholes are reported", it said.
It also pulled up the department for spending less amount and under utilising allocated funds in 2017-2018 and 2018-19 for various schemes and said "the committee is anguished that the department has been citing repeatedly procedural excuses like non-receipt of adequate proposals/delayed receipt of proposals, insufficient funds and approval of schemes during the fag end of fiscal for the same which are not convincing enough".
"The committee hence reiterate that the department must adopt prudent fiscal management system and modify the procedures if required, to reduce multi-agency clearances and speed up submission of proposals," the panel, headed by BJP Lok Sabha member Rama Devi, said.