THE budgetary allocation for people with physical disabilities, as laid out in the budget proposal for the 2019–2020 financial year that was placed in the parliament on June 13, raises concerns, and rightly so, among non-governmental agencies that work for the protection of right of such people. The allocation made for people with physical disabilities accounts for only 0.31 per cent of the total budget outlay of Tk 5,231.9 billion — 2.19 per cent of the allocation made for the social safety net programmes or about Tk 16.29 billion — which rights activists think is too insignificant to cater to the needs of the people intended. A group of nine non-governmental organisations that work on the rights of people with disabilities, at a news conference in the capital Dhaka on Monday, therefore, demanded an increase in allocation as, when allowances make up 85.3 per cent of the total allocation for such people, there is nothing left to spend on their productive development. The stipend programme has been expanded to cover 10,000 students with physical disabilities but the amount set aside for the programme could support only two students a union on an average, which is unlikely to make any significant contribution to the education of people with disabilities.
There are debates over the number of people with disabilities in Bangladesh, but it is generally said to have hovered around 9 per cent, as was established in the Household Income and Expenditure Survey of 2010, conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics which defined disabilities as functional limitations, although the Fifth Population and Household Census 2011, also conducted by the Bureau of Statistics which counted disability as of being six types, gives a number as low as 1.4 per cent and a World Bank survey of 2003, conducted by the World Health Organisation, gives a number as high as about 16 per cent. Even if people with mental disabilities are discounted, the number remains very high, especially in relation to the budgetary allocation that the government has proposed in the budget for the 2020 financial year. The government has so far already showed its indifference towards people with disabilities because a lack of only infrastructural convenience for them has been pervasive in the physical structure as much in the capital as in outlying areas. Such an indifferent attitude of the government to the rights of people with disabilities, physical or otherwise, is deplorable. With such an insignificant allocation, it is highly unlikely that the government could effectively attend to the problems that people with disabilities face in their everyday life, let alone their education and other forms of well-being.
There has also been the Rights and Protection of Persons with Disabilities Act 2013, which is hardly reflected in the government’s policy planning and not at all in the infrastructure of public establishments. The government must, therefore, review the budgetary allocation for such a large portion of the population to improve the lot of the people with disabilities and to integrate them into mainstream productive process.
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