The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events and/ or publicly available information. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.
Arnab Surai, MBA 2016-18, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur
The date 16 December 2016 went down in the annals of India as one of the landmarks in the disability rights movement. The Rights of Persons with Disability Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha after years of activism, debates and discussions. The World Bank suggests that this would positively impact around 6.4 percent of the population or about 80 million persons a figure so mammoth that it draws instant attention by its sheer magnitude. The bill 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 persons with disabilities. Come January, the Union home ministry issued guidelines on how people with disabilities can show respect when the national anthem is being played in cinemas and public places, mentioning they should not move and position themselves “maintaining the maximum possible alertness physically”
A question arises. After the highest court of law, the Supreme Court had exempted differently abled persons to stand up for the national anthem, why the government went ahead and issued such senseless, regressive and humiliating guidelines, without any requirement per se? Media is full of examples how much we lack in compassion and sensitivity to deal with unfortunates. People with disabilities are assaulted on a regular basis in movie halls public gatherings for not being able to stand up for the national anthem or the national flag. This incidents create a temporary uproar and discussions are made around how enforcing “standing up” for the national anthem can work against people with disabilities who may not be able to do so because of the nature of the disability. But sadly, they fizzle out soon.
Lawyers across the country are equivocal in claiming that the language of these guidelines is completely offensive and shows disrespect and disregard for so many different conditions/disabilities that people may have. Further, it would only instill unnecessary fear and stress in people with disabilities and their families alike who want to go out and enjoy a movie, whether action is taken or not. When basic infrastructure and public spaces are inaccessible to persons with disabilities leading to severe restrictions on a person’s movement in and out of their homes this comes as a serious blow to the people already suffering in silence. As numerous serious issues cries for attention across the country, our government remains completely apathetic towards those and is doing all that is possible to lose its credibility.