Inclusive budget allocations for persons with disabilities are required to ensure accessibility for them in the society, said speakers at a virtual discussion yesterday.
Mentioning that persons with disabilities have been hit hard by the pandemic, they said the government needs to give priority to them while undertaking different plans and policies.
Access Bangladesh Foundation (ABF) and The Daily Star in collaboration with five organisations working for persons with disabilities — Disabled Child Foundation, National Council of Disabled Women, Sitakund Federation, Turning Point Foundation, and Women with Disabilities Development Foundation — organised the discussion on “Disability Inclusive National Budget 2021-22”.
The speakers said there are strong and sufficient laws and policies for people with disabilities, but their implementation remains in poor state till date.
They stressed the importance of developing reliable database for persons with disabilities and determining their true number through conducting nationwide census.
They said many people with disabilities who hold jobs or are self-employed have lost income opportunities amid the pandemic. The upcoming national budget needs to be prepared to deal with the Covid-19 situation, and providing support for food, cash transfer, skill development initiatives, education, health services and employment generation should be prioritised.
Presenting a concept paper, Vashkar Bhattacharjee, adviser to Sitakund Federation, said to allocate resources appropriately for development centring persons with disabilities, there is a need for reliable data, which is absent at present.
As per Household Income and Expenditure Survey-2016, persons with disabilities constitute 6.94 percent of the total population, whereas 2011-Population and Housing Census says it is 1.4 percent, Vaskar said.
On the other hand, in 2020-21 national budget, allocation for persons with disabilities is only 1.96 percent of the social safety-net budget and 0.33 percent of the total budget, he said.
To ensure an inclusive budget for persons with disabilities, it is important to pinpoint their area-based specific needs, said Shaheen Anam, executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation.
National Human Rights Commission Chairperson Nasima Begum stressed for ensuring transparency and accountability in government activities for persons with disabilities.
Welcoming the discussants, The Daily Star Editor and Publisher Mahfuz Anam said the newspaper will remain by the side of persons with disabilities and continue to publish reports, op-eds, and feature articles upholding their needs and causes.
Considering the pandemic situation, there should be additional budget allocation for persons with disabilities, he said, adding the pandemic left them in a dire situation.
Addressing as chief guest, Planning Minister MA Mannan said there should be a “quota” system for both persons with disabilities and members of different ethnic communities to ensure their participation in government initiatives.
The minister said he will raise the issue of sufficient budget allocation for persons with disabilities while attending the government’s upcoming pre-budget meeting, scheduled to be held in the next few days.
Reserved seat lawmaker and member of Parliamentary Committee on Ministry of Social Welfare Aroma Dutta stressed for coordination among government organisations while addressing needs of persons with disabilities.
Shibani Bhattacharjee, additional secretary of social welfare ministry, and Albert Mollah, co-founder and executive director of ABF, among others, spoke at the discussion.