Eliminate Discrimination Against Leprosy Patients; Provide Housing & Pensionary Benefits, Etc.: Vidhi Submits Suggestions Before SC
The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre to respond to the suggestions given by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy for treatment and rehabilitation of those affected by leprosy, and for ensuring that such people are not discriminated against.
The Bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud noted that nine out of the eleven suggestions given by Senior Advocate Raju Ramachandran on behalf of Vidhi fell within the executive sphere, and directed Attorney General, Mr. KK Venugopal, to file suggestions on these within four weeks.
All the States have also been asked to filed their response with regard to the steps taken and to be taken, “keeping in view the constitutional goal”. The matter will now be heard after six weeks.
The suggestions were filed pursuant the direction of the Court in its order dated 20 August. In order to finalise the suggestions, Vidhi had also consulted with The Leprosy Mission Trust India (TLMTI), the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) and other organisations working in this area in different States.
Here is a summary of its suggestions:
- Awareness, Sensitisation and Dissemination of action taken.
- Non-discrimination: Ensuring equal treatment to persons affected by leprosy in so far as biometric authentication may be required to own and operate bank accounts for such persons.
- Pensionary benefits for persons affected by leprosy.
- Health and rehabilitation: Health plans for checking cases of leprosy and preventing them; and guidelines for community-based rehabilitation (CBR) of persons affected by leprosy in terms of the WHO guidelines.
- Housing assistance
(a) Safe and encumbrance-free housing for persons living in leprosy colonies, which must have safe drinking water at accessible points, accessible public toilets, drainage systems, motorable roads with standardised accessible features like curbs, and garbage collection and disposal services.
(b) Preference to persons affected by leprosy who are abandoned, homeless or in need of housing assistance in the government housing and land provision schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Avas Yojna (PMAY).
(a) Evaluation of state of implementation of the Right to Education Act, 2009 vis-à-vis children affected by leprosy and children of persons affected by leprosy.
(b) Direction to government educational institutions to provide reasonable accommodation, safety equipment and protective gear in schools tailored to the requirements of students affected by leprosy.
(c)The framing of a scheme for providing scholarships and subsidised loans for the higher education and vocational training for children affected by leprosy and children of leprosy-affected families.
(d)Ensuring non-discriminatory environment for the parents/guardian of children affected by leprosy and parents affected by leprosy.
(e)Compulsory screening for the leprosy of all school going children, in both public and private schools.
- Employment and livelihood:
(a)Guidelines for private sector companies and organizations on steps to be taken for creating a non discriminatory environment for persons affected by leprosy.
(b)Scheme to provide subsidized loans to persons affected by leprosy for starting income generation activities with flexible terms regarding security and surety for the loan, increase of the subsidy amount and return provisions.
(c)Livelihood Skill Development Program for people affected by leprosy in all the skill development and vocational training institutes of the government.
(d)Policy for preference in employment of persons affected by leprosy in offices and service delivery centres working in the field of leprosy such as Central Leprosy Training and Research Institute, National Leprosy Eradication Programme, Leprosy Homes and others.
(e)Individualised work plans for persons affected by leprosy under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, as per the physical condition of the individual person.
- Welfare: Formulation of RBI guidelines for opening and operating bank accounts and ATM cards for persons affected by leprosy, with deformities such as lack of fingers, preventing them from signing or giving thumb impressions to authorise their transactions.
- Language and Expression: Substitution of the term ‘Leper’ with ‘Person(s) affected by leprosy’ instead or its equivalent in other languages in all government documents, notifications, circulars etc. Also, phasing out usage of the term ‘leprosy colony’.
- Non-discrimination: Repealing of provisions of all Central and State legislation which discriminate against persons affected by leprosy, and bringing in an over-arching provision in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 shielding them and their families from discrimination.
- Certification of Disability under The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016: Change in the present criteria for assessment of extent of disability of persons affected by leprosy under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. It asserts that requiring 40% disability for leprosy patients is “unfair”.
Read the Order and Suggestion Here