Disability activists took to the city streets on Monday to protest against the Right to Education Bill. They demanded that the Bill be stalled until it is amended to include provision for disabled children. Protests are being raised against the definition of disadvantaged children, which, at present, includes only SCs, STs and OBCs (along with economically weaker sections) but not the disabled. Even the definition of “school” does not provide for disabled-friendly infrastructure.
“The Bill tabled in the Lok Sabha on July 30 promises to make primary education a right for children between six to 14 years but excludes more than 20 million children with disabilities. The government says it does not have resources to spend on differently-abled children,” said Shampa Sengupta, director, Sruti Disability Rights Centre. According to the latest census, 18.4 lakh people with disability are in West Bengal but activists say the actual figure can be up to 50 lakh. Differently-abled minors constitute nearly 20 per cent of the disbaled population of the state. In Bengal, there are 143 state-aided and recognised educational institutions for the disabled. “My daughter, Aparan Bhaduri (31), was mentally-challenged and she could not get school education. The definition of disability in the Bill covers only physical disability and not cerebral palsy and mental retardation,” said Shukla Bhaduri of Jodhpur Park. “I have a right to education. The Bill marginalises us and if it is passed, many like me will be deprived of their basic right to live,” said Akash Verma (24), a mentally-challenged person.