Disability certificate hard to get

Published December 26, 2009

SAHIWAL, Dec 25 A person with special needs in Pakistan may be taking up many difficult tasks to show his power and skill, but one task that can defeat him is to become a certified disabled person.

The board responsible for issuing a disability certificate is working at a snail's pace causing problems to the people with special needs, Dawn has learnt.

Applicants allege that District Social Welfare Department officials are reluctant in forming a medical assessment board at the Sahiwal District Headquarters Hospital to process 274 pending applications. The board can declare an applicant disabled which is a prerequisite for both the issue of a disability certificate and a computerised national identity card (CNIC) holding a disability logo.

The boards are to be made under a federal government's scheme through the Provincial Council for the Rehabilitation of Disabled People to issue separate CNICs to the people facing physical needs. To make the scheme workable in districts, District Labour Department, District Social Welfare Department, a psychologist, a Tevta representative and the medical superintendent of DHQ Hospital are to scrutinise applications. A seven-page computerised form is to be filled by the applicant. Social welfare and labour departments are to help applicants, but these departments have not made any counters for the disabled.

During a visit to both the labour and social welfare departments, this correspondent saw people with physical needs were moving from one department to other seeking help from the officials. Private people offer these applicants to fill up their forms for Rs300 per form.

According to procedures, an applicant submits his application to the Labour Department which after scrutiny forwards it to the District Social Welfare Department to be referred to the medical superintendent. At the hospital, an assessment board will examine the applicant and submit its report to the District Social Welfare Department for the issue of a disability certificate. The National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) issued identity cards only to those applicants who possessed the disability certificate.

“After going through a number of complications to get the disability certificate, I've decided to apply for an ordinary CNIC,” says Allah Ditta, of 81/5-R.

Seeing the problems of people with special needs, Pakistan People's Party leader Zaki Chaudhry has devoted the party secretariat to help the applicants. “In the last two months, we have helped 791 applicants submit their forms with the Labour Department,” says Amin Raza, a social worker, working at the secretariat.

“Among them, only 220 applicants have submitted their forms with the Labour Department while 500 applicants are awaiting their turn.”

The district labour officer, who introduced him as Kashif, said his department was entertaining applicants but confirmed that in the last two months only 220 applications were forwarded to the District Social Welfare Department.

District Social Welfare Department officer Ijaz says of those 220 applications, only 66 have been forwarded to the assessment board.

“The assessment board will meet on Dec 29 to clear these cases,” he said. So far, no applicant has been issued a disability certificate in the district.

Applicants alleged that both departments were reluctant to process their cases. They demanded that the assessment board met thrice a month so that all cases were cleared at the earliest. At the moment, the assessment board has met only once in three months, while under the rules it should meet twice a month.

DHQ Medical Superintendent Dr Rashid told Dawn the assessment board would be formed only on the request of the District Social Welfare Department. He said the board was ready to meet even thrice a month if the request was made from the department.

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