In a landmark decision, the Indian Supreme Court on October 8 ordered State and Central governments to implement a 1995 law guaranteeing that 3 percent of their respective workforces consist of people with disabilities.
“Employment is a key factor in the empowerment and inclusion of people with disabilities,” the court wrote, according to the Times of India. “It is an alarming reality that disabled people are out of job not because their disability comes in the way of their functioning, rather it is social and practical barriers that prevent them from joining the workforce.
“As a result, many disabled people live in poverty and in deplorable conditions. They are denied the right to make a useful contribution to their own lives and to the lives of their families and community.”
The 1995 Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act covers State and Central government-run establishments, public sector undertakings and government companies.
On top of the 3 percent minimum requirement, at least 1 percent of the workforce must include individuals under each of three specified categories, namely people with visual disabilities, people with hearing impairments and people with a locomotor disability or cerebral palsy.
“From the beginning, the government has had a lackadaisical approach towards the disabled,” said R. Prabhakaran, who represented the Tamil Nadu Handicapped Federation Charitable Trust in the Supreme Court, in The Hindu. “They were given jobs out of pity, though time and again the disabled have proved that they can do a job well.
“We placed the argument that in developed countries and China too, even private organisations employ the disabled and their potential is utilised. Instead of applying the law, the government has invested in 1,000 ways to prevent the disabled from performing.”