Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Monday sought explanation from Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal regarding provisions for differently-abled children in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2009.
Gandhi’s intervention comes a day after the Bill invited protest from disability activists, who claimed the Bill left 20 million differently-abled children out of its ambit.
But highly-placed sources said Sibal was able to convince Gandhi about the Bill’s merits. He told Gandhi the content of the Bill addressed differently-abled children adequately and had not been tampered with.
“If the Bill is held up then it will take years before it can be cleared,” an HRD Ministry source said.
“Once amendments are made, the Bill has to go through the entire process of getting cabinet approval, getting cleared by the Rajya Sabha and then the Lok Sabha all over again.”
The official added that changes, if any, could be made later. “This is an enabling legislation and model rules will be framed later... The fine print can be taken care of then,” the official said.
But members of the Disabled Rights Group took their complaints to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in an attempt to up the ante against the Bill.
“Singh gave a sympathetic hearing. He responded positively to our concerns and it is a huge victory for us,” said Disabled Rights Group convener Javed Abidi.
But the HRD Ministry stuck to its stand that concerns would be addressed later.
“The Bill does include children suffering from disability within its ambit. It clearly
provides that children with
disability will have the right to free and compulsory education in accordance with the provisions of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1991,” HRD minister Kapil Sibal said.
The Right to Education Bill makes free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school a ‘right’ for every child between the ages of six to 14 years.
The Bill mandates that no child can be held back or required to pass an examination until she or he completes elementary education.