[lg policy] Modi govt makes U-turn on Haj policy for disabled, is accused of being discriminatory

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Fri Apr 13 12:50:17 EDT 2018


 Modi govt makes U-turn on Haj policy for disabled, is accused of being
discriminatory
Sanya Dhingra <https://theprint.in/author/sanya-dhingra/> 12 April, 2018
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[image: A devotee at the Haj Pilgrimage | Wikimedia Commons]Representational
image | Wikimedia Commons

*Govt cites ‘instances of many such people indulging in begging’ in
affidavit filed in HC, activists say even Pakistan and Saudi Arabia don’t
have such bans.*

*New Delhi:* People with disabilities are barred from performing Haj “in
view of instances of many such people indulging in begging”, the Centre has
said in an affidavit filed in the Delhi High Court, a policy termed as
“shocking and derogatory” by activists.

This submission comes months after the minority affairs ministry had
advised the Haj Committee of India (HCoI) to relook at its provisions with
regard to the differently-abled.

“As per prevailing practice for more than 30 years, persons suffering from
physical disabilities or suffering from specified diseases have been
debarred from applying for Haj pilgrimage through HCoI,” the ministry said
in the affidavit filed Wednesday.

The prohibition on the disabled performing Haj is mentioned in the Haj
Policy 2018-2022, which states that “persons who are crippled, handicapped,
lunatic or otherwise physically incapacitated or suffering from amputation
of legs”, will not be eligible to apply for Haj pilgrimage.
*Government’s U-turn on the issue*

In the face of a backlash from disability groups, the minority affairs
ministry had assured it would take a fresh look at the controversial
provision.

“Minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had himself assured us that
he will review the unfair provision,” Mohammad Faisal Nawaz, a
polio-affected person and social activist, who had applied for Haj in 2016,
told ThePrint.

“We were promised a corrective action. Is this affidavit their correction?”
he asked. “This is in complete violation of RPWD Act (Rights of Persons
with Disabilities Act, 2016).”

In a letter dated 2 January 2018, Ravi Chandra, under secretary, minority
affairs ministry, wrote to the HCoI, “Considering the fact that ‘The Rights
of Persons and Disabilities Act, 2016’, have come into force from December,
2016, the Haj Policy and Haj guidelines are required to be aligned with it.”

“The nomenclatures used in the Haj policy/guidelines are also required to
be in consonance with the terms of the said Act,” the letter said.

Gaurav Kumar Bansal, who has filed the petition challenging the new policy
in the Delhi HC, on the grounds that is violative of the RPWD Act and
Articles 14, 21 and 25 of the Constitution, too is “shocked” at the latest
government affidavit.

“The government should withdraw it as it insults all Indians,” he said.
“How is this ministry working for the welfare of minorities if this is what
they believe?” he asked.

Naqvi, who had earlier ordered the deletion of the provision, could not be
reached for a comment, even as Muslim groups and activists expressed their
anguish at the new affidavit.
*No such prohibition in other parts of the world*

In the affidavit, the government has written that it was, in fact, the
Consulate General of India (CGI) in Jeddah which advised the government in
2012 for “strict screening of disabled persons in view of instances of many
such people indulging in begging which is strictly prohibited in Saudi
Arabia”.

However, Saudi Arabia itself places no such ban on the disabled performing
Haj. “Saudi Arabia has, in fact, made special provisions to make the
pilgrimage accessible for the disabled,” argues disability rights activist
Nipun Malhotra.

Incidentally, neighbouring Pakistan too does not have a blanket ban in this
regard. Pakistan’s Haj policy simply states that a medical fitness
certificate attested by a medical officer would be mandatory for applicants.

This is in stark contrast to the language used in the Indian Haj policy,
which Malhotra calls “derogatory and shocking”.


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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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