While 3rd December is commemorated as World Disability Day, how many know that RTI could empower the disabled to know about various welfare schemes, grants, concessions and scholarships they are entitled to?
While the Right to Information (RTI) Act is being used as a powerful tool by many of us, there do not seem to be even a handful that uses it to empower persons with disabilities (PWD).
Mysore-based social activist Siddaraju who is associated with the National Federation of the Blind has been steering various campaigns by invoking RTI Act in his fight for justice of disabled people, particularly children. One of his campaigns led to the Mysore Police Commissioner reserving 10 parking spaces for the disabled. Bangalore-based Sakshi Trust has a handbook to guide the PWD to invoke the RTI Act.
The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India is the official who is in charge of the rights, welfare schemes and scholarships for the PWD. As per its website, “The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, enlists facilities that persons with different types of disabilities would be entitled to; and the responsibilities and obligations which are placed on the Government of India, state governments, local bodies and establishments in this behalf. It broadly includes measures for prevention and early detection of disabilities, education, employment, social security, research and manpower development, barrier-free access and preferences and facilities that are available to such persons and the action which needs to be taken to avoid any discrimination against persons with disabilities.”
The RTI Act can be used to find out various schemes and scholarships applicable to the PWDs, under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment as well as at the state and municipal corporation levels. The RTI Act has provided assistance from the public information officer for a person who is sensorily disabled. Sec 7(4) states: “Where access to the record or a part thereof is required to be provided under this Act and the person to whom access is to be provided is sensorily disabled, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall provide assistance to enable access to the information, including providing such assistance as may be appropriate for the inspection.’’
Anita Iyer, founder trustee of Ekansh Trust based in Pune, states that the main issues of concern are, “lack of education opportunities both at the primary and higher levels; lack of livelihood and employment opportunities; lack of physical access in buildings and; denial of access to most civil and political rights. This is because PWD are not seen as a powerful vote bank. Hence, they are marginalised and sidelined by the society. They should be made aware of the power of the RTI Act so that the government machinery would give more attention to the rights of the PWD under various schemes. More and more RTI activists and NGOs should come forward to help them in filing RTI.’’
The Office of the Chief Commissioner for PWD has provided an information handbook on the RTI Act 2005, on its website.
It states that:
• this Information Handbook has been prepared in pursuance of Section 4 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act, 2005) to provide information in respect of powers, duties and functions of the Office of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (Office of the CCPD) set up under the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 (PwD Act)
• to provide access to information under the control of Office of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities and to promote transparency and accountability in the working.
• To provide maximum information suo motu or sources thereof so that people have minimum resort to use of the RTI Act.
• This handbook is useful for the persons with disabilities, their guardians, Voluntary Organisations and individuals working in the field of disability and Central/State Government Organisations.
Bangalore based Sakshi Trust in association with ActionAid India has developed a guide for the PWDs to invoke the RTI Act. It includes “a step wise guide to drafting RTI applications and provides a useful tool to seek information by anyone concerned, an NGO, or even parents. The context of the RTI applications and interventions in this book are made from the perspective of specific issue that a citizen/ disabled person maybe concerned about.’’
The issues the book has addressed through sample RTI application forms pertain to:
• Getting a Disability Certificate
• Getting an allocation in Poverty Alleviation Schemes
• Ensuring barrier free access in Public spaces and offices
• Access to education and related services for PWDs
• Employment opportunities for the disabled
• Getting Assistive Devices
• Ensuring complaint is heard by the Commissioner for PWDs
For each of these issues, the guide book contains model RTI application have been developed that can help you solve the problem. For more information, visit: www.sakshitrust.org.
The guide book states the general reasons for the raw deal that PWDs get in our country:
(a) Lack of awareness and negative attitudes towards people with disability. Very often people with disability are seen as sick persons who need care and comfort
(b) No tradition of / or facilitation for people with disability forming political interest groups at various political levels
(c) Lack of awareness about the governmental administrative structures and how, they can be used by NGOs and people with disability in particular
(d) People employed in the Office of the Commissioner of disability themselves are not well versed in disability issues
(e) State Coordination Committees and State Executive Committees (as specified in the Disability Act of 95) are not yet set up in all states
(f) The strengthening of the disability movement is sorely required
(g) Only a few people with disability are represented in the administrative bodies set up by the Government
(h) Lack of platforms where people with disability represented in governmental committees can share experience with other disability groups, get support, advice and gather information about disability issues
The book states that, “Despite of the shortcomings and challenges stated, the PWD Act (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995: remains a unique opportunity to establish linkages between the administrative bodies and people with disability regarding political issues as well as rehabilitation.’’
The prolific use of RTI Act can further strengthen and make the PWD Act more meaningful and relevant.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
Only SME, mortgage, real estate, construction and roads sectors reported meaningful growth in October 2013, reports Nomura Equity Research based on RBI released sector-wise monthly loan data
As of October 2013, aggregate non-food credit growth was 17% y-y (year-on-year), with primary contributions from power (25.9% y-y), SMEs (small and medium enterprises 25.8% y-y), NBFC loans (non-banking finance companies loans 22.1% y-y) and mortgages (19.3% y-y). Loan growth for the industry sector ex power was 12.1% y-y. Annualized YTD (year-to-date) non-food credit growth was 12.7%, with four sectors (mortgage, power, NBFC and service SMEs) accounting for 53% of this growth. Month-on-month (m-m), SME, mortgage, real estate, construction and roads sectors have reported meaningful growth. These trends have been analysed by Nomura Equity Research in its Quick Note on RBI released sector-wise monthly loan data for October 2013.
Within SMEs, service sector SMEs continue to show very strong loan growth of 28% y-y, while manufacturing SME loans picked up this month to report 23.6% y-y growth. Agri loans were up 8% annualized YTD, much better than the usual seasonal trend of reporting a decline over this period, says the Quick Note from Nomura.
With loans to NBFCs coming off m-m, the big growth driver within the services segment was retail trade growing at 29.5% y-y. Loans to transport operators picked up a bit to 8% y-y. Services ex-SME growth was at 19.6%. Commercial real estate loans increased sharply in October 2013 to report 21.1% y-y growth, points out Nomura.
Since July 2013, the RBI’s move on hiking the MSF (Marginal Standing Facility) had driven a shift in corporate borrowing from the bond market to bank loans, but this trend has seen some reversal into October 2013, particularly for NBFCs and petrochemical sectors, where the loans outstanding dropped Rs260 billion m-m after having gone up by Rs685 billion from July to September 2013, says Nomura.
The Nomura analysis for the bank loan and deposit growth trends is given below:
The trend for priority sector lending is shown in the chart below:
Nifty and Sensex traded weak throughout the day as positive manufacturing data from US has strengthened case for tapering
As suggested last week, the stock market is in the process of giving up some of the recent gains. The weakness has surfaced as the US reported strong factory activity, which raised expectations that the Federal Reserve could taper sooner than later. The markets opened Tuesday lower, rebounded into the green during the morning session for a while before falling back into the red where it stayed for the rest of the session. The fall was cushioned by metals, commodities and realty which were buoyed after yesterday’s positive PMI data.
The BSE Sensex opened down at 20,857, hit an intra-day high of 20,927 and then trended down to an intra-day low of 20,817 before closing at 20,854 (down 43 points or -0.21%). Similarly, Nifty opened down at 6,204 briefly rebounded to hit an intra-day high of 6,225 then trended down to hit an intra-day low of 6,191 before closing at 6,201 (down 16 points, or -0.26%).
Most of the NSE indices fell today. Only a few such as metals, commodities, realty, energy and media have finished in the green. Media and realty finished strong moving up 1.08% and 1.17% respectively.
Of the 50 stocks on the Nifty, 22 advanced and 28 declined, indicating weakness. The top gainers were GAIL (3.06%); BHEL (2.76%); DLF (2.59%); Jindal Steel (2.54%) and NMDC (2.31%). The top losers were IndusInd Bank (-1.82%); Kotak Bank (-1.63%); Dr Reddy (-1.42%); HCL Tech (-1.32%); L&T (-1.27%).
According to Reuters, Indian silver imports jumped 40% to 338 tonnes in October from 241 tonnes in September, as per GFMS, driven by demand during the festivals and weddings season that starts from October and tapers off by early May. The price of silver in COMEX stood at $19/ounce. UBS has cuts its silver forecast to $20.50 for 2014, from $25.
Ratings agency CRISIL stated that Indian fiscal deficit is expected to come in at 5.2% of GDP for FY14, which it also expects CAD to inch up higher in Q3-Q4 FY14 to 3.1% of the GDP in FY14. CAD has reduced sharply due to lower trade deficit numbers.
Asian markets were mixed too, spooked by tapering talks. However, Tokyo’s Nikkei finished up 0.61% because the Japanese Yen weakened to 140/Eu for the first time since October 2008. It has weakened both against the dollar and Euro, making exports look good.
All European markets were trending down, too. France’s CAC-40 is down nearly 1.50% at time of writing this piece, while FTSE is down 0.80%.
US markets dipped on Monday despite good manufacturing data. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of national factory activity rose to 57.3 in November—its best showing since April 2011—from 56.4 the prior month. This week will see a slew of important data namely: ADP private payrolls and ISM non-manufacturing numbers on Wednesday, GDP on Thursday and finally nonfarm-payrolls report caps on Friday. US stock futures were trending down in early trade.