Centre Releases Disability Data Sans Socio-Economic Categories Citing Issues With Data 'Quality'

The government has already been under attack for dropping disability-related questions from the sixth round of the National Family Health Survey earlier. 

New Delhi: The Union government has decided to not release any socio-economic data it had collected while registering persons with disabilities for its Unique Disability ID (UDID) cards in the last six years, The Hindu reported.

According to the report, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has justified the move by questioning the “quality” of the socio-economic data collected.

Information on categories like caste, level of education, employment status, income (personal and family) and marital status of persons with disabilities has been shelved with officials saying that the focus of the form was always to collect disability data and hence all other fields were made optional which led to many skipping them.

Rajesh Aggarwal, Secretary, Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) of the Social Justice Ministry said, “The data are not being released because of quality issues.” When asked if the department intends to pursue collecting socio-economic data for future UDID registrations, Aggarwal said, “The basic purpose of the form is to get a disability certificate… and also, we cannot afford to make the form too lengthy by seeking information we cannot verify.”

The DEPwD earlier this week published what it called aggregated data from the around 94 lakh UDID registrations, minus the socio-economic data, with a statement alongside spelling out the objective of the project – to “create a national database for all Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) along with their socio-economic details” so that policy-making and interventions can be targeted, the Hindu reported.

The government has not officially disclosed the exact number of people who filled in the socio-economic fields.

Also read: Union Government Defends Decision to Remove Questions on Disability From NFHS-6

Other heads under which the government chose not to publish data are the fields of personal and family income (spouse and father), whether they were Below Poverty Line, employment status, occupation, socio-economic category (SC/ST/OBC/General), and level of education.

A senior government official told The Hindu, “For instance, marital status – only about 15% of those registered have filled it in. It is not enough data to be significant. Again, information on income, just 40% have filled it in. The department has no way to verify the extent to which this information is accurate.”

Another official aware of the programme’s implementation said that “not enough” people had responded to fields such as education and socio-economic category either, adding this was among the primary reasons for discounting this data. 

“On the other hand, the medical data and disability-related data are high-quality because they were verified by doctors. And since the purpose was to register people for disability certificates to make them eligible for the department’s schemes, only those fields were made mandatory,” the official was quoted by the Hindu as saying.

However, even among the benefits offered by the DEPwD, four of the seven initiatives are related to special education and vocational training programmes, skill training and scholarships.

The data released by the government includes district-wise, gender-wise, disability type-wise and age-wise information and will be updated every quarter, the government has said.

It had added that the UDID database was also meant to help design accessible websites and applications and “connect PwDs to digital India”. However, nowhere in the UDID form is any section seeking information on existing computer, mobile, and Internet usage among PwDs, the Hindu reported.

The government has already been under attack from experts, activists, and Opposition leaders for dropping disability-related questions from the forms issued for the sixth round of the National Family Health Survey earlier.