In an ambitious move that aims to enable persons with disabilities to gain universal access, equal opportunity for development, independent living and participation in all aspects of life in an inclusive society, the government today launched the “Accessible India Campaign” (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) which seeks to make at least 50 percent of all government buildings in the national capital and all state capitals “fully accessible” for the disabled by July 2018. Similar deadlines have been set to make airports and railway stations accessible to the disabled.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi was originally scheduled to launch the campaign, it was Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who eventually presided over the function after the PM had to leave for Chennai to take stock of the flood situation there. Jaitley also read out the PMs message on the occasion.
Jaitley also also handed over National Awards to 52 individuals and institutions under fourteen broad categories. The awardees included a nine-year old girl, Katibenla from Nagaland, who suffers from 100 percent locomotor disability but has defied her disability to practice vocal music. She recently released a CD album titled “Ku Salang” and was today conferred the national award for her outstanding creativity. Another child, S Sabari Venkat from Coimbatore, who suffers from visual impairment was conferred the national award for his outstanding achievements in entertainment, mimicry, group singing, elocution and quiz.
In his message, the PM stated that the proposed smart cities should have the provisions for full accessibility for person with disabilities. He added that all central ministries and states should make all efforts to make “Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan” successful. Congratulating the 52 awardees the Prime Minister said that “we should consider replacing ‘Viklang’ word with ‘Divyang” so as to bring about a change in the way we think about those with disabilities. The PM added that the slogan of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ will not reach fruition until all sections of the society, including the differently-abled, are made part of it.
Launching the campaign and presenting the awards, Jaitley said it is the society’s responsibility to take up the campaign in mission mode. Sugamya Bharat is a right step towards inclusive society, he said adding that accessibility for persons with disability to all infrastructure and activities should be one of the parameters of our development. He added that mass awareness should be created about the issue of accessibility for these persons.
Jaitley further said that when even a backache or a toothache can bog down many, it is difficult to imagine how people with certain limitations—either from birth or acquired later in life–who are part of the same society, lead a normal life and make a place for themselves by the dint of their courage.
The Accessible India Campaign envisages making all the international airports in the country and railway stations of A1, A & B categories fully accessible to the disabled by July 2016.
As per campaign drafted by Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, at least 10 percent of the of government owned public transport carriers in the country will be converted into fully accessible carriers for these persons by March 2018.
It will also be targetted that at least 50 percent of all public documents issued by the Central Government and the State Governments meet accessibility standards for persons with disabilities by March 2018.
Social Justice & Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot said that the government has taken a number of initiatives for the empowerment of persons with disabilities which include scholarships separate institute for deaf and dumb persons and development of new braille language. He stated that the government has also decided to set up a special University for persons with disabilities with the cost of Rs 1,700 crore. It will start functioning with next academic year.
A web portal and mobile application for creating a crowd sourcing platform to get information about inaccessible was also launched on the occasion.