THE SCHOOL education department of Punjab has issued orders banning usage of words ‘handicapped’ and ‘viklang’ for differently-abled children. The orders issued to all district education officers (DEOs) state that in English, differently-abled children should be referred as ‘Persons With Disabilities’ and in Hindi/Punjabi, the term ‘Divyangjan’ has to be used. In no case should words such as ‘handicapped’ and ‘viklang’ be used for children.
However, activists working for the rights of differently-abled in Punjab said ‘divyang’ is a Hindi word and cannot be used in Punjabi too. They have demanded that the government specify an authentic Punjabi language word to be used in official communications instead of imposing Hindi word ‘Divyang’ for Punjabi too.
The orders, issued from the office of Direction General of School Education (DGSE) Punjab dated December 3 (copy with The Indian Express), read, “As per the notification issued by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, children with special needs should be referred to as ‘Persons With Disabilities’ (PwDs) in English and ‘Divyangjan’ in Hindi/Punjabi.”
The separate orders issued by department of social security, woman and child development (disability branch), government of Punjab, which too have been sent to DEOs, say, “Use of words like viklang, handicapped is perceived as an offence to PwDs and thus is in contrary to the spirit of the Act/UNCRPD.”
It adds that India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the Act has been enacted by the government of India in line with the spirit of this convention.
The orders issued by the department of social security of Punjab also state that ‘divyangjan’ word has to be used in Hindi/Punjabi both as per the directions from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
A source from Punjab education department said, “We run a separate component, Inclusive Education for Disabled (IED), under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan for children with disabilities. Under this, we refer to children as ‘differently-abled’ in case of physical disability or ‘children with special needs’ (CWSN) in case of intellectual disabilities. Words like handicapped or viklang are hardly used now with increasing awareness but still, there are some officials who use
Balwinder Singh, the state coordinator for Apang Swang Lok Manch (Asul), said, “We object to the usage of Hindi word ‘Divyangjan’ in Punjabi too. The government cannot impose a pure Hindi word in the Punjabi language especially in Punjab where all official communication is written in Punjabi. The government should specify an authentic Punjabi word.”
Prashant Kumar, director general of school education (DGSE) Punjab, said the orders were issued in line with directives received from the state’s social security department.