Poorly Worded Ads, Apathy Are Depriving Doctors With Disabilities of Job Opportunities

"Doctors or healthcare workers with disability are identified only for selected departments, assuming one may not be capable of handling the work pressure or technicality. That notion is completely wrong."

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New Delhi: Ill-conceived advertisements, subterfuge relating to rules by hospital administrations and a general sense of apathy are depriving health professionals with disabilities of their rightful employment opportunities in an already limited arena.

A latest advertisement published by the UPSC sought applications for 14 vacancies for the post of tutor, college of nursing at Lady Hardinge Medical College, a Central government-run hospital. Out of these 14, one post is reserved for candidates belonging to the category of persons with benchmark disability. People who are eligible to apply under the PwBD category are ones with cerebral palsy, leprosy cured, dwarfism, acid attack victims with disability, etc.

“I am a person with disability (45%), with locomotory disability in one leg and one arm for the last five years almost. I am working as a nursing officer in a Delhi government hospital as a permanent employee. So as per the last gazetted order I am eligible to apply. But the advertisement does not mention that those who are already working at a similar post are also equally eligible to apply and not just people with ‘one leg’ disability. Such advertisements reduce our chances of progressing in our career, it is a kind of bias. Disability does not reduce one’s capability. If I can work in one hospital, then certainly do the same in another hospital,” said Monika Dhankar, nursing officer at a Delhi government-run hospital.

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The gazette notification 2021 by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment issued on January 4 explains (Annexure B, page 1,161) that:

a. the list of posts being notified is only indicative and not an exhaustive list. If a post is not mentioned in the list, it is not to be construed that it has been exempted…autonomous bodies, PSUs may further supplement the list by adding to the list of posts identified for respective category of disability;

b. if a post is already held by a person with benchmark disability, it shall be deemed to have been identified for that category of benchmark disability; and

c. if a post is identified in the feeder grade, all the posts in the promotional grade should also stand identified.

Taking cognisance of the matter, the court of chief commissioner for persons with disabilities has written to the secretary of UPSC, medical director of Lady Hardinge Medical College, Directorate General of Health Services and asked them to take necessary measures regarding the matter and amend ‘equal opportunity policy’.

“Neither are they aware of the latest 2021 gazette notification on identification of posts nor have they done any survey to identify the posts suitable at their own place. This is despite the RPDA 2016 mandating Equal Opportunity Policy & Grievance Redressal Officer for all establishments,” said Dr Satendra Singh, organisational head of Doctors with Disabilities: Agents of Change, a body of health professionals with disabilities.

Despite this gazette notification, the recruitment advertisements of Institutes of National Importance like the new AIIMS continue to flaunt the law as they keep mentioning the 2013 list of identified posts, the organisation claimed.

In a recent advertisement by AIIMS Delhi, the institute invited applications for the 252 faculty posts on direct recruitment basis in various departments whose closing date for online application was on December 16. The ad stated that ‘as per the instructions of government of India, 4 per cent “horizontally reservation” for persons with benchmark disabilities (PwBD) have been allotted’.

“There is no legal basis for horizontal reservation. Vertical reservations are for other reservation categories – SC, ST, OBC or EWS. The problem with horizontal is that there is no assurance that the candidate will be selected and the posts are not fixed, the candidates are often placed anywhere,” said Dr Sharad Philip, a psychiatrist with a visual disability.

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In another case, NIMHANS Bengaluru announced recruitment for 19 vacancies. None has been marked for the PwBD category. Only a note stated – ‘4% reservation for PwBD candidates as per government of India reservation policy from among the notified posts’.

“The problem is firstly the doctors or healthcare workers with disability are identified only for selected departments, assuming one may not be capable of handling the work pressure or technicality. That notion is completely wrong. Also, the medical institutes never clearly state how many PwBD doctors will be selected. Basically, no rule is followed and it is completely on the individual hospital administration to choose,” said Dr Philip, who is also a part of the organisation.

Despite the Government of India identifying Group A posts suitable for people with visual disabilities, none of the Institutes of National Importance (INIs) or AIIMS have advertised or recruited any such candidate, claimed Doctors with Disabilities.

The organisation had last month raised the matter and has written to the health and social justice ministries of the Union government, stating:

“In addition, especially for health professionals with disabilities, they mention obsolete, objectionable riders to deprive them of their rightful due of employment by not advertising identified posts for the specified disabilities within the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016.”

The education and social justice ministries have written back to Dr Singh, saying that they have taken note of the matter and will soon be apprised of the actions taken.

Earlier this year, an important judgment was taken by Supreme Court judge Justice D.Y. Chandrachud in the case of Dr Vikash Kumar vs UPSC – a person suffering from dysgraphia or writer’s cramp is entitled to a scribe in the Civil Services Examination (CSE).

During the hearing, Justice Chandrachud had said:

“When competent persons with disabilities are unable to realise their full potential due to the barriers posed in their path, our society suffers, as much, if not more, as do the disabled people involved. For it is denying the nation the opportunity to be served by highly competent people who claim nothing but access to equal opportunity and a barrier-free environment…The creation of an appropriate environment in which the disabled can pursue the full range of entitlements which are encompassed within human liberty is enforceable at law. In its emphasis on substantive equality, the enactment of the legislation (RPDA 2016) is a watershed event in providing a legal foundation for equality of opportunity to the disabled.”

Unfortunately, it appears that the apex court’s message of inclusive equality for ensuring dignity to people with disabilities is yet to be taken in letter and spirit.

Somrita Ghosh is an independent journalist.