RULING AND Opposition MPs showed rare unity in Rajya Sabha Wednesday as they passed a bill to protect the rights of the disabled. As soon as the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill was passed, however, acrimony was back with the Congress raising alleged misuse of office by minister Kiren Rijiju.
Some Opposition members cracked jokes about the definitions of various disabilities. “… I want to know who the authority to interpret them is,” said Sitaram Yechury (CPM). “Otherwise, the whole House can come under these clauses, ‘mentally disabled’, ‘intellectually disabled’, ‘loss of hearing’,” he said.
“Intellectual disability, a condition characterised by significant limitation both in intellectual functioning… and in adaptive behaviour which covers a range of everyday, social and practical skills… Now, Sir, many times they charge us and we charge them of the same thing,” Yechury said. “… Memory impairing judgment is a constant charge we have against the ruling benches.”
This led to laughter, prompting deputy chairman P J Kurien to say, “I compliment every member. What a good atmosphere. Why can’t you do it every day? How nice it is, how good it is. Let us proceed on it now.”
Yechury also chose the occasion to say, “People have an ordinary demand for cash but they are not getting it and standing in queues. Will you call that also mental?”
As a number of members including Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP) and Renuka Chowdhury (Congress) raised concerns on who will define new categories including about the status of mental health, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot assured them a medical board will define these criteria. Congress MPs Viplove Thakur, Rapolu Ananda Bhaskar and Madhusudan Mistry raised various aspects.
Such was the atmosphere that Kurien started the discussion in the morning session although it had been listed for 2 pm.
In the morning, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad had said, “This should be passed without any discussion.”