India's decade-old disability law has crawled for a decade. It could now finally stand on its feet, walk and run.
The government on Friday opened the bureaucratic knots that had tied down this law to give disabled candidates appearing in the elite civil services examinations a "fair chance".
As part of this reformist measures, disabled candidates appearing for the Civil Services Examinations will get seven rather than the existing four attempts and candidates who clear the examination on merit will not be counted under the three per cent disabled quota.
But it is the third relaxation that a senior government official said holds the potential for opening its doors to the disabled really wide. Vacancies that are not filled due to the absence of suitable candidates would not lapse but would accumulate that could be filled at a later date.
"Wow! This is really good," said disabled rights activist, Javed Abidi, jubilant that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had matched his words with action. "This is the first time that the disabled are getting something from the government on its own," Abidi said.
Satyananda Mishra, secretary, personnel, suggested the initiative - driven by the Prime Minister - was overdue. "The intention is to give the disabled, who begin with a disadvantage, a wider choice," he told HT.
Abidi explains why Friday's announcement - primarily aimed at the elite civil services - was important. There were nearly 200 posts in the civil service that should have been filled by disabled candidates but were not. The backlog clause implies that the government will have to start filling them up.
But the implications of this relaxation go beyond the elite civil services. "Once the government accepts this principle for the highest service, we get a toehold and a precedent to seek backlogs for other government recruitments," Abidi said.