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Disabled bid to assert their political right

By Our Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI, MARCH 21. For the first time, an organised effort to project persons with disabilities as a "vote bank" and to lobby for their true empowerment has been made by the Disabled Rights Group (DRG) which organised a national convention on the "Political Rights of the Disabled People" here over the week-end.

At the convention, it was formally announced that Javed Abidi, the DRG convenor would contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections from the New Delhi Parliamentary Constituency as an independent candidate. "Even by conservative estimates, 10 per cent of the country's population comprises persons with disabilities. And therefore, they constitute a sizeable vote bank," asserted Mr. Abidi at the convention.

And while disability rights activists from across the country were also encouraged to jump into the electoral fray, it was argued that for creation of a society which respects the rights of persons with disabilities as envisaged by the Biwako Millennium Framework Convention, it was important that they themselves come forward and take centre-stage. "Political empowerment of persons with disabilities was crucial to their social and economic empowerment and comes first," it was argued. Participants pointed out that "Nothing about us Without us" and "Opportunities without Prejudice" could no longer remain mere slogans.

While representatives of political parties including the major ones did pledge to create an inclusive society, they mostly found themselves in the dock in terms of their understanding of the issues that could help create such a society based on the principles of equity and justice.

On the occasion, the DRG unveiled its flag - in yellow, the colour of disability and blue, the colour of rights. "We are confident that this disability flag will reach various corners of India and unite all the disabled people, irrespective of where they belong to, what their religion may be or which caste or gender they represent," said Mr. Abidi. Interestingly, Mr. Abidi is known to have close links with the Congress party and yet is contesting the forthcoming elections only as an independent candidate.

The political convention, which drew activists from as far away places as Meghalaya, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, also came up with a charter of demands which was presented to the representatives of various political parties present on the occasion.

The charter calls upon the parties to recognise the just demands of persons with disabilities who constitute a sizeable chunk of India's population and whose needs could no longer be ignored.

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