With the recession, tough economic times are upon most of us. Companies continue to maintain their freeze on recruitment, salary cuts are common, and layoffs informed to employees an hour before the end of the week. Non written communication to work longer hours is common place. Most people are glad they can retain their job, but the axe is not, say most companies, a matter of choice, some people must go so that the majority can stay, and during this time of deep economic uncertainty one wonders about the situation of People with disabilities (PwDs).
India has nearly 70 million PwDs in the country. Those lucky to be employed predominantly find themselves in IT companies, telemarketing and BPOs. A survey of the top 100 corporate houses in India, in 1999, show a mere 0.4% of their workforce was PwDs. Nothing has dramatically changed in the last ten years, PwDs continue to struggle to get employment in the best of times and with the current freeze on recruitment, their chances are as good as zero. Additionally is the bias that PwDs are ‘incapable’, most companies also unwilling or unable to make their premises ‘accessible’, which also acts as a hurdle, and so one can conclude with worrying certainty that PwDs are twice as badly hit by the recession as non disabled people.
If disability groups were demanding tax rebates as incentives for companies hiring PwDs before, now the situation is far more urgent. More so as most PwDs require to earn approximately twice as much as their non disabled counterparts to enjoy the same standard of living.
Few know with any certainty when the recession is going to end or how long it will take the economy to recover, would the Government then undertake a study to find out the effects of the recession on PwDs, would it then take measures to change the situation. Most disability groups believe, that with more pressing needs, they have little chance of getting Government attention. They have fewer expectations as none of the political parties even made a mention of these 70 million PwDs in their election manifesto. All PwDs can expect are a few more social welfare schemes, but with a limited budget and a large number of PwDs clamoring for them, chances are slim that there will be a diametric change.
Whether we like it or not, the 70 million PwDs are too big a population to ignore and brush aside, whether the new Government at the centre likes it or not, it will have to do something that will improve the economic lives of PwDs and pull them back from the ‘vulnerable’ list.
As I look around, I see the recession has turned into a god sent opportunity for young enterprising Indians. I am seeing more people in their 30s set up businesses of their own than ever before and perhaps PwDs need to be heading in the same direction.
With a little bit financial assistance from the Government and some training on business they are just as capable of success as any other businessman and we hope that’s what they will get by way of Government assistance.