The Indian government has constituted a committee to review the Office Memorandum on amanuinses for persons with disabilities. The Office Memorandum for the use of scribes which was issued in February 2013 puts the onus on the exam-conducting bodies for ensuring strict supervision and arresting use of unfair means if any. However, instead of enforcing the order in letter and spirit, government has buckled under the pressure of the UPSC and agreed to review/amend the historic order issued by the office of CCPD. The UPSC has alleged that the disabled people use foul means to clear exams however it is yet to substantiate its claims. Its simply shirking its responsibility from ensuring equal-level field to all aspirants. Stories abound that the incompetent scribes have ruined the career-prospects of disabled candidates in the past. If one conducts a in-depth research one could find that over the years, scribes provided by the UPSC, UGC and SSC have lacked reading-writing skills and consented to write to avail remuneration provided by the examination-conducting bodies. Disabled people’s lives should not be mortgaged solely by formalizing remunerative provision for the scribe.
Scribes ’ should be enforced without discrimination
The 2013 Office memorandum regarding the use of scribes has been hailed and justified by the several High Courts of the country. For instance, As a result of that Memorandum, the Tamil Nadu High Court directed the University Grants Commission to provide NET exam question papers in Braill to all print-disabled examinees. The Hindu reported: “when 35-year-old Miranda Tomkinson took the national eligibility test (NET) of the University Grants Commission (UGC) at a private college in the city, for the first time in his life, he read the questions without the help of a scribe”. Someone,who has similar disability could gage the sense of jubilation and confedence palpable in Miranda’s assertion. Since then question paper in Braille is provided to all blind candidates in NET examination. Not only this, banks also comply to the Office Memorandum fearing courts’ admonishment. Several central universities including the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has adopted the Office Memorandum in its Academic Council meeting.
However, the UPSC and the SSC are stubborn and disregarding the law of the land. The UPSC which has faced the wrath of the Courts for several times is unnecessarily wasting public-money on court cases. Last week on a public interest litigation filed by NGO Sambhavana, Delhi High Court issued notices to UPSC for not complying to the 3 per cent quota and on the Office Memorandum for scribes. The UGC provides question papers in Braille for NET examination, however makes it mandatory that scribe should be graduate. And if one avails one’s own scribe permission should be sought by visiting the Centre one day prior to the exam. My worry is why not to verify documents on the date of examination itself? Why disabled people are forced to visit the examination centre multiple times? Such provision which disregard the inaccessible transit system which forces a disabled to undergo undescribable hardships should be done away with.
It is high time government should stop humiliating disabled people. When the entire country is concerned about a number of exposures and question paper leaks in several exams, why government is mulling to adopt different yardstick for persons with disabilities. Whether board exams in Bihar, All India Pree Medical Tests conducted by CBSE, or Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commissions paper leak, such exposures speak volumes about the unpreparedness and inadequacies which mar the Indian examination system. The Supreme Court has asked CBSE to reconduct AIPMT exams. Hence, it is imperative for the government that instead of mulling to impose irrational conditionalities only on the disabled examinees, it should put mechanisms in place so that the strict supervision could be maintained. Such discriminatory treatment meted out to the disabled is uncalled for; and government must stop playing with the lives of ordinary struggling poor disabled people. Owing to non-enforcement of the 3 per cent employment provisions, disabled people are unable to cope up with the rising cost and demands of neo-liberal economy. Therefore, government should adhere to constitutional principles and should not discriminate against them.