Chandigarh, November 18: In a bid to empower Persons with Disabilities (PwDs), the Punjab Cabinet on Wednesday okayed a new scheme – Punjab Divyangjan Shaktikaran Yojna (PDSY), to be implemented in a phased manner across the state.

The first phase of the scheme will involve strengthening the existing programmes to ensure that their benefits reach the persons with disabilities in a more effective manner, while in the second phase, 13 new interventions are proposed to be undertaken for the empowerment of such persons.

A decision to this effect was taken in a virtual Cabinet meeting chaired by the Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh here this afternoon.

The scheme, envisaged by the Social Security and Women and Child Development department, is aimed at providing a barrier-free environment to persons with disabilities in a phased manner, by making government and public-centric buildings, public transportation and websites accessible to them. Among other issues, the PDSY aims to fill the backlog of PwDs in government jobs, which has already been approved by the Council of Ministers while approving the State Employment Plan. The Department of Employment Generation would give greater thrust on filling up vacant posts of PwDs during the next six months.

For overall guidance and policy support for the scheme, a Consultative Group headed by the Minister, Social Security and Women & Child Development, is proposed to be constituted with all concerned Cabinet Ministers as Members. The Group would not only review the performance under the scheme but also suggest measures for improvements, if any required.

The concerned line/administrative departments would implement various existing and new interventions under the scheme as part of their respective Annual Plans, the details of which would have to be submitted to the Social Security and Women & Child Development department. The Department would prepare a consolidated Annual Plan for the development of PwDs, which shall be reviewed by the Planning and Monitoring Committee (PMC) headed by its Principal Secretary. For inter-departmental coordination and resolution of issues that may crop up in the implementation of the scheme, a State Level Steering Committee (SLSC) chaired by the Chief Secretary would be constituted with all concerned Administrative Secretaries as members.

Under Phase-I, the scheme would focus on providing to PwDs the benefits of existing schemes being run by various Government departments with a goal to reach out to all of them in the state, so as to provide services/benefits/rights in respect of healthcare, education, employment, safety and dignity in all spheres of life.

Phase-II of the PDSY shall have new initiatives/programmes to cover those aspects and needs which have hitherto not been covered under any existing centrally/state sponsored scheme or PwD-oriented schemes by different departments.

Divulging the salient features of the PDSY, the spokesperson said that the scheme focuses on convergence and integration of various existing schemes and programmes to maximize their benefit for the development of PwDs with an aim to converge 30 existing schemes and programmes. These include Free Concessional Travel in Government Buses also for one attendant of a blind person (blind persons are already getting free travel facility in government buses).

Other programmes include: Smart Ration Card Scheme under National Food security Act (NFSA) 2013, Health Insurance, Sarbat Sehat Bima Yojna (SSBY), Earning Livelihood through Punjab State Rural Livelihood Mission (PSRLM), Shop-keeping, Skill Development and Vocational Training, Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SABLA), Free Transport Facility to Students, Hostel Facilities, Free Coaching, Ashirwad Scheme, Mai Bhago Vidya Scheme, Inclusive Education for Children with Special Needs (CWSN), Physiotherapy and Speech Therapy for Children with Special Needs (CWSN), Travel & Escort Allowance, Dr. Hargobind Khurana Scholarship Scheme for brilliant students, Free Education in Residential Meritorious Schools, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Hostels Scheme (KGBV), Upgradation of Merit of SC Students (for both Boys & Girls), Vocational Skills Training, Provision of Support Services, Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK), Social Empowerment, Sports for Players with Disabilities, UDID Card: A single identity card for Persons with Disabilities, Financial Assistance to Disabled Persons, Free Education upto Class XII for all in the State, Backlog in Government Jobs and Children with Specific Disabilities, like Intellectual Disability.

In Phase-II, the Department has proposed 13 new interventions, including Treatment on suffering disability, Mobility Aids & Assistive Devices, Promoting Education, Research and Human Resource Development, Five Days of Special leave in a Calendar Year, Free Education, Empowerment of disabled girl students, Recreational activities, Home Schooling scheme for Children with Special Needs, State Award for Outstanding Work Done by Teachers with Disability, Participation in Local Government, Service Provider Scheme and Survey and Database Creation at District Level under Phase-II.

Notably, the State Government, in keeping with the spirit of the Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016, is committed to ensure protection of the rights of persons with disabilities and to provide equal opportunities to enable their full and effective participation and inclusion in society, through several ongoing and new initiatives and programmes. As per Census 2011, in Punjab, out of a population of 2.72 crore, there are 6.5 lakh disabled persons i.e. 2.14% of the population. This comprises 3.79 lakhs (58%) males and 2.74 lakh (42%) females. The number of disabled persons is highest in the age group of 20-29 years (1.17 lakh). A majority (20%) of disabled persons have disability in movement, 12.6% have visual disability and another 22.4% have disability in hearing, while the remaining account for other types of disabilities.