Mumbai, Sep 24: Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot today said that work on the 'Universal Identity Card', announced last year to ascertain the exact number of physically challenged citizens in the country, would begin from February next.
The minister said the Universal ID Card project will not only help know the exact count of physically challenged population, but will also enable them access benefits of various Central government schemes.
Gehlot was in the city to launch the "Accessible India Campaign" under which selective public places will be developed as "disabled friendly".
He said people with lesser degree of physical deformity will also be considered as 'disabled' and issued ID cards and that his ministry has tabled a Bill in the Parliament which has widened the criteria of disabilities from existing seven categories to 19 categories.
"We hope that in coming the Winter session of Parliament, when the bill is passed, disabled persons will be recognized under 19 categories as against current seven," Gehlot told reporters.
"The Census (figures) does not provide a clear and proper picture on the actual number of disabled persons. Our ministry has decided to conduct a country-wide survey to identify people with disabilities and issue them universal ID cards," he said.
Under the Accessible India Campaign, Gehlot said, the department has identified 48 cities across all states of the country where 100 public buildings would be selected in each city by the state government, which would be equipped with disabled friendly infrastructure such as fixing ramp, urinals, public dealing counters, etc.
In Maharashtra, the buildings would be identified in cities Mumbai, Nagpur, Nashik and Pune. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on the occasion said his government will extend all the efforts and facilities rendered by the Centre to the differently-abled persons.
"Western culture speaks about survival of the fittest. But our culture, and government talks that whosoever is born here will live the life full dignity and this project (Accessible India Campaign) is an example of it," Fadnavis said.
Union minister of state of Krishnapal Gujar, cabinet ministers Diwakar Raote, Rajkumar Badole, actor Vivek Oberoi were also present at the programme.