The passage of the much-awaited disability bill in Parliament and enforcement of the amended legislation on prevention of atrocities against SCs, STs stood out for the Social Justice Ministry in 2016 during which when it largely struggled with disbursal of funds to states meant for scholarship schemes.
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The nod to the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2016, by Parliament towards the fag end of the year despite disruptions, has encouraged the ministry to push for early enactment of a law aimed at ending discrimination against transgenders, which is a long-pending issue.
“In the coming year we will strive for the passage of the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, which at present, is before the Standing Committee.
“We are waiting for the Standing Committee to give its recommendations. We will then see what changes are to be made and what not and then try to push the bill in the next session of Parliament,” Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot told reporters.
He said bringing in a stricter national policy on senior citizens which seeks to toughen provisions dealing with the abuse of old people and lays emphasis on good and affordable healthcare for them also figures high on his agenda for the new year. The draft cabinet note on the policy is under the consideration of the PMO at present.
The ministry, however, had to grapple with the Finance Ministry throughout the year to get requisite funds for disbursal to states under the post-matric scholarship scheme for SC students.
The ministry is yet to release arrears to the tune of Rs 6,500 crore for the fiscal 2014-15 and 2015-16 as on date, to the states and has written to the Finance Ministry in this regard.
Amount of Rs 2,791 crore allocated for this fiscal under the scheme was also used in the payment of arrears.
“We have written to the Finance Ministry a number of times asking for the funds but there is no progress on this front,” Gehlot said, hoping the new year will bring some good news.
The ministry is also working on a bill that seeks to decriminalise beggary and offer a life of dignity to the beggars, homeless and others who live in poverty or abandonment.
“We also have formulated a scheme under which we will provide assisted living devices like crutches, spectacles, hearing aids and dentures to help the elderly suffering from age-related disabilities.
“The objective is to bring the elderly belonging to economically weaker sections into active life and build an aged-friendly society by providing them with devices to maintain near normalcy in morbidity,” Gehlot said.
According to him, the enactment of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, which provides for stringent action against those committing crimes against these communities, and framing of rules for its implementation in the first half of the year were also major achievements for the ministry.
“In the coming year, we will ensure that the Act gets implemented in true letter and spirit,” Gehlot added.
Among other issues, the ministry revised the Scheme of National Overseas Scholarship for SCs by removing a mandatory norm for them to return to the country and work here after the completion of their studies.
It also decided to bear entire expenditure incurred by Dalit and backward class students on coaching for competitive examinations by doing away with the cap of Rs 20,000 under the free coaching scheme for SCs and OBCs.
Several activities which included building a Rs 100-crore monument at 26, Alipur Road where B R Ambedkar breathed his last, establishing a Rs 192-crore International Ambedkar Study Centre at 15, Janpath and releasing Rs 125 coin and a stamp were undertaken by the ministry as part of 125th birth anniversary celebrations of the Dalit icon this year.
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