Social stigma leaves disabled behind in India: WB

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Chennai, Feb 5: Disabled people are most excluded in Indian society, according to a World Bank report.

The recent WB report on 'People with Disabilities in India has brought to light that apart from low literacy and employment rates, widespread social stigma were leaving disabled people behind. With better education and more access to jobs, India's 40 to 90 million physically-challenged people could generate higher growth, which could benefit the country as a whole, the report said. In multiple deprivations, it said household with disabled members were significantly poorer than average, with lower consumption of fewer assets.

Children living with disability were four to five times less likely to be in school than children from Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Scheduled Caste (SC) families.

''Increasing the status and social and economic participation of people with disabilities would have positive effects on everyone, not just disabled people,'' the report quoting leading Social Protection specialist and main author of the WB report on disablities Philip O' Keefe said.

At present eight per cent of the Indian population was disabled.

The figures were debatable since the proportion of disabled people in Indian varied from the official figure of two per cent to alternative estimates of four to eight per cent. ''It depends on the definition that you give to the term disability,'' he added.

Out-of-school rate for the disabled in India was more than five and a half times the rate for all children, which was less than seven per cent. Female illiteracy among the disabled was 64 per cent while male illiteracy accounted for 43 per cent.

The report points out that even in better performing state such as Kerala, disabled children account for 27 per cent and in Tamil Nadu for over a third (34 per cent) of out-of-school children. Analysts believe that it would not be possible to achieve the target of 100 per cent enrolment under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) without getting the disabled children into schools.

Based on the National Sample Survey (NSS) 58th round, the WB report shows that nearly a third of children with mild disability were out of school, despite the fact that they need no aid or appliance to be able to attend school.

Yet, irrespective of the levels of disability - mild, moderate or severe - the disabled rarely progress beyond the primary school level.

Social attitudes and stigma play an important role in limiting the opportunities of disabled people in social and economic life, often even within their own families.

For example, in a survey carried out for the report, around 50 per cent of the households view the cause of disablity as a 'curse of god.' In early 2006, a National Policy on Persons with Disabilities was approved by government of India. The only states that have draft disability policy to date were Chhattisgarh and Karnataka.

''A simple example is increasing accessibility of public transport and buildings for disabled people, a measure, which could benefit a wide range of people, including the elderly, pregnant women and children. Broadly, people with disabilities, who are better educated and more economically active will generate higher growth in which everyone will share,'' Keefe added.


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