The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) audit report on social sector for Government of Delhi reveals that the Government of Delhi has failed to conduct a door-to-door survey to build a comprehensive database of Persons with Disabilities (PwD) residing in Delhi.
The national capital has not laid down a state specific disability policy to address the issues of PwD. Delhi government had also failed to set up district level disability rehabilitation centres.
A performance audit found that homes for persons with mental illness were grossly overcrowded and lacked adequate patient care vehicles and caring staff. The Asha Kiran Complex at Rohini with a capacity to accommodate 350 inmates, was seen populated with 970 inmates. At the same time, against the post of 502 caregivers, it only had 215 caregivers. The audit also underlined that a total of 148 deaths have occurred during 2009-2014, indicating the slackness on the part of Department of Social Welfare, Govt. of Delhi, towards the issue of de-congestion of Asha Kiran Complex, which has been discussed time and again following the grave incidence of 57 deaths that occurred in the complex in the year 2009-2010.
The Government of Delhi had specified rules for implementation of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity, Protection of Rights and Participation) Act, 1995 after a considerable delay in the year 2001. The scrutiny of records revealed that two crucial committees for ensuring implementation of the PwD Act – State Co-ordination Committee (SCC) and State Executive Committee(SEC) – were formed after a delay of further three years, in November 2004. The performance review also highlighted that as of June 2014, SCC had found time to meet only four times (in April 2005, November 2006, October 2007 and July 2012), whereas the law prescribes that this committee should have met 20 times.
The performance of SEC was even more dismal. As against prescribed 40 meetings, this committee had met only once (in February 2013). The CAG audit report cites from a reply filed by the Department of Social Welfare (in March 2015) that these two committees didn’t play an active role during the years 2007-2011 and hence both these committees had been reconstituted in 2012.
Citizens right to know
Don’t citizens have a right to know why these two committees had remained inactive? And it is worth probing if those re-constituted committees have delivered any better. While the new government of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had promised a four point disability agenda in its manifesto, disability-rights activists had to point out to the Delhi Dialogue Commission that the promised task force to implement the four point agenda has not been constituted as yet. Now, the new government is in the process of constituting new SCC and SEC and has come under criticism for selection of candidate for the post of Deputy Commissioner (PwD).
Even the office of the Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities (PwD) had failed to comply with section 62 of the PwD Act, which specifies preparation and submission of annual reports giving full account of its activities during the previous financial year on annual basis. The Commissioner (PwD) had submitted annual reports for the years 2009-10 to 2012-13 to the department only in August 2013!
On this issue, the Department of Social Welfare (DSW), Govt. of Delhi, states in a reply (March 2015) that “due to the model code of conduct, the reports could not be placed in the state assembly” and assured that the process would be initiated for laying these reports on the table of the state assembly. However, the department reply is conspicuously silent on the issue of non-preparation of annual reports for 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12 on annual basis. CAG audit report pronounced that “reply is not acceptable, since this issue was also pointed out in previous performance review in the year 2003”. Shouldn’t these annual reports filed by the office of the Commissioner (PwD) be accessible to citizens on the website of the office?
The performance review points out how the Department of Social Welfare, Govt. of Delhi, failed to comply with section- 27, 28, 29 and 30 of the PwD Act that would have helped ensuring educational opportunities for PwD. The department had not initiated any non-formal educational scheme worth naming for the children with disability. Additionally, the department failed to start any research for development of new assistive devices. As far as schools for disabled students go, the department had established only six of them, that too more than two decades ago. Thus, these six schools can only cater to 1250 students against 52,330 disabled children in Delhi as per the Census of 2011. As of July 2014, these six schools also suffered an acute shortage (50 percent) of academic staff. It was also found that there were no schemes for non-formal education for disabled students.
On the issue of such brazen non-compliance, the department sought to explain in a reply (March 2015) that “as regards implementation of provisions of section 27, 28 and 29 of the PwD Act, Education Department was taking necessary steps”. On provisions of section 30, the department sought to argue that “comprehensive education scheme had not been formulated but some facilities were being provided to students with disabilities”. Without mincing the words, CAG audit reiterated, “The reply is not acceptable, as it is the responsibility of the Department of Social Welfare to implement the provisions of the PwD Act, and not the Education Department”. On this issue too, the CAG auditors found that it was a case of continued non-compliance since these issues were also pointed out in the previous performance review.
And how well did the Department of Social Welfare, Govt. of Delhi, comply with sections 32, 33 and 61 of the PwD Act which pertain to employment of PwD? It was found during the audit that the Commissioner (PwD) had scrutinized in January 2013 the status of reservation only in eight major departments and that since 1996, against 2336 vacancies (as per 3 percent reservation clause) for PwDs, only 1253 were filled, leaving a backlog of 1336 posts (i.e. almost 60 per cent of the reserved posts). While the performance audit was on and this fact surfaced, Commissioner (PwD) replied in July 2014 that “the process of reviewing remaining departments was under process”. Towards the end of the finalization of the audit report, the department stated in March 2015 that “letter for identification and reservation of three percent posts had been sent to Secretaries (Services), Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD)”.
Any signs of change?
Will the Commissioner (PwD) and the department go beyond merely writing reminders and take stern actions against defaulting departments for failing to ensure three percent reservations within their staff to PwD? CAG audit clearly feels that “the department has not taken adequate action on this issue in spite of being pointed out in the previous performance audit”.
Another shocking revelation was the complete absence of any system in the office of the Commissioner (PwD) to watch the receipt and disposal of complaints from PwD as envisaged under section 62 of the PwD Act. The audit team found that 119 out of 446 complaints/grievances received in the Commissioner’s (PwD) office during 2009-2014 were pending for decisions as of June 2014, with pendency ranging from 3 to 56 months.
Has there been any change in the situation since these facts were revealed? The Commissioner’s office stated in a reply (July 2014) that a complaint register has been prepared for the year 2014-15 and the department stated in March 2015 that an online grievance monitoring system is being developed by the IT department, GNCTD. The system is now accessible at here.
CAG has now asked the Department of Social Welfare, Govt. of Delhi, to implement the following four recommendations:
- Devise a system of periodical survey to ascertain the number of PwD, along with the type & degree of disability.
- Publicise schemes of loan facilities provided by the National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation/ State Channeling Agency.
- Decongest the homes for mentally ill persons and provide adequate facilities to them.
- Ensure compliance to various provisions of the PwD Act by setting up adequate number of schools for disabled children including the non-formal/ comprehensive education and providing disabled friendly infrastructure in all places etc.
Will the new government take up the task of complying with these recommendations? The disability-rights activists are keenly watching the developments.