NEW DELHI: Amid growing concern among families and caregivers over the fate of the
(NT) for the welfare of persons with
, mental retardation and
, the department of empowerment of persons with disabilities (DEPwD) has conveyed to the ministry of finance that the Trust must not be wound up or merged with
the ministry of social justice
and empowerment (MSJE).
According to sources DEPwD under the MSJE has pitched for the continuation of the Trust which was set-up under the National Trust Act 1999 as an autonomous body under the MSJE given its critical role in dealing with specific concerns like guardianship, shelter and
dedicated health insurance scheme
for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (PwIDDs).
The department of expenditure (DoE) of the finance ministry in its letter to the DEPwD had sought the views of the latter on winding up the NT and merging it with MSJE . According to sources, DOE in its report pointed that NT has a staff strength of just 15 and its grant-in-aid in 2016-17 was a mere Rs 5 crores.
“Considering its small size in terms of staff and the grant-in-aid and its area of focus is on empowerment of persons with disability, DoE has suggested that it would be better if this body is wound up and its functions taken over by the ministry,” sources said. The DoE letter to the social justice ministry comes in the backdrop of an overall review wherein all ministries of government of India have been asked to consolidate offices under their jurisdiction.While MSJE has conveyed its view, the government is yet to take a final view on the matter.
Meanwhile, Parivaar a national confederation of 300 organisations of parents of PwIDDs has issued a statement listing out how any attempt to do away or merge NT will prove to be a severe setback for PwIDDs. They have also written to
the National Human Rights Commission
listing out their worries and the problems ailing NT that need urgent attention. Parivaar draws attention to the fact that the post of chairperson of NT has been lying vacant for nearly 6 years. The secretary DEPwD is officiating as the NT chairperson currently.
Speaking to TOI, President of Parivaar, Cdr. (retd) Shrirang Bijur highlighted that the Niramaya health insurance scheme under the purview of NT is estimated to be reaching over 1.70 lakh beneficiaries and the guardianship granted under the law is like a lifeline for many PwIDDs. “The role of the Local Level Committees under the NT Act for granting guardianship has become even more important in the midst of the ongoing
for those without parents or any family," he explained. Data available with Parivaar indicates that there are 44147 guardianships granted by local level committees in the districts under the law till March 31 this year.
Bijur cited how eight PwIDDs who tested Covid positive from a shelter in Pune could be admitted to a government run quarantine care centre with ease only because the shelter authorities had their legal guardians. "Without a legal guardian it would have been impossible to get the patients admitted to a hospital," he asserted.