As much as Rs 260.62 crore under the National Fund for Persons with Disabilities is lying unused for over two years now — ever since the new Rights for Persons with Disability 2016 came into effect. There has been no financial audit of the fund either. The details have come to the fore through Right to Information (RTI) applications filed with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the Office of the Director-General of Audit (DGCAE) by a lawyer for disability rights, Akeel Ahmad Usmani.
The major activities under the fund include scholarship support to students with disabilities. The scholarship was implemented for the period 2009-15. The amount disbursed for the same was Rs 3.51 crore in that period — around more than 50 lakh every year, according to the RTI reply by the Ministry, which also stated that there is no audit report of the fund.
The said national fund was created in 1983 under the Charitable Endowment Act, 1890 with a corpus of Rs 2.51 crore — with Rs 1 lakh from the Centre and Rs 2.5 crore by the Jawaharlal Nehru Centenary Trust. When The Disability Act 1995 came into being, the national fund was merged with it. Likewise, Section 86 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Bill 2016 provided for a separate National Fund for Disabilities, and the previous fund under the1995 Act was merged with it.
The RTI reply from the Ministry also stated that the certified reports of the erstwhile fund and the old fund were available but cannot be released as they are voluminous and that they can be seen in the office. The DGCAE, too, in its RTI reply, stated it has not conducted any audit of the fund.
The income generated through investment of corpus fund in nationalised banks and other financial securities is the only source of income for the national fund.
Usmani said: “The fund is frozen for four years now at the Reserve Bank of India and should be utilised immediately for the welfare of the disabled persons.
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