New Delhi: The union government has defended its decision to remove questions related to disability from the National Family Health Survey-6 (NFHS-6), saying that such data is unlikely to change fast and so there is no need to collect it.
The primary focus of the survey, the Department of Health and Family Welfare (Statistics Division) said, is to collect data on maternal and child health, and in its current form won’t be able to record data on disability accurately, The Hindu reported. There are differences in data collected by the NFHS and the NSSO on disability, it said, and “it is not possible to capture the all-India extent of disability” through NFHS.
The Department also warned about the risk of “significantly underestimating the prevalence of disability”. “The questions on disability were included for first time in the fifth round of NFHS [NFHS-5] which was carried out during 2019-21. And based on NFHS-5 report, it was observed that disability prevalence was only 1% for rural areas and 0.9% for urban areas while NSSO estimates for the year 2018 showed 2.3% for rural areas and 2% for urban areas,’’ it said.
The Hindu quoted a two-page communication from the Department stating that most of the data related to disability is available in the ‘Report of NSS 76th round’, which was aimed at getting specific data on the subject. The note said questions were included in the NFHS-6 based on recommendations by the Technical Advisory Committee and other higher-level committees constituted for smooth functioning of the survey.
Writing for The Wire on the questions on disability being dropped from the survey, the general secretary of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled, Muralidharan, had said:
“Blaming people for the inability of the surveyors to communicate properly with them reflects the surveyors’ insensitivity and lack of adequate training. This is what happens when people at the top do not understand the basics of the job entrusted to them and points to the larger question of lack of sensitivity among the bureaucracy and a vast section of policymakers.
What harm this would cause to a section of the population seems to be of little bother to them. This has been the bane of this government. It cares two hoots for the consequences, at times disastrous, of its reckless actions.”