Unfair bill

Published On: March 9, 2019 02:25 AM NPT By: ttt

As controversial as quotas can be, persons with disabilities are right at resisting any attempt of reducing their quota in the civil service

The Bill on Federal Civil Service Act is not only controversial but also unjust toward persons living with disabilities. The Bill, with its provisions of reducing the eligibility quota for persons with disabilities from five percent to three percent, is violating the rights enshrined not only in the Act on Rights of People with Disabilities (2017) but also Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Certainly, discussing and implementing quota for marginalized groups is a sensitive topic not only in Nepal but everywhere. 

The overall aim of providing justice and relief while acknowledging historically unaddressed grievances experienced by certain groups within the wider society should be understood as a progressive approach. Yet from other countries’ experience, from the United States of America with ongoing discussions on university quota for minority groups to post-apartheid South Africa, such policies are debatable and can also backfire and, in the long run, they can also be detrimental to the overall cause of justice and fairness. 

Quota should be regarded within a broader equity framework that, necessarily and to some extent forcefully, is seen as the only assured pathway to break down silent and invisible glass ceilings that are still so pervasive in a society like Nepal. 

Contradictory as it might be, quotas are one of the instruments at hands of the policy makers to offer persons from marginalized groups a journey toward self-development and self-empowerment.
Ideally a youth living with disabilities or a peer coming from any other historically and culturally discriminated groups should be able to climb the society ladders. Self-development and self-empowerment after all are about a journey toward personal mastery and leadership compounded by high degrees of personal accountabilities, positive values and ownership. Measures like quotas could undermine such trajectory. 

I personally know several youths living with disabilities who entirely reject the concept of positive discrimination, the philosophical underpinning of measures like quotas, on the ground that such provisions are furthering distinguishing and by the default, segregating and isolating, their supposed beneficiaries. 

According to this position, how can the society understand and appreciate the values, contributions and skills of persons living with disabilities if persons with disabilities end up taking a short cut, bypassing others, perhaps more deserving candidates?

On the other side of equation and probably as an unintended consequence of those arguments supporting equity based provisions, many other youth living with disabilities are just laying their hopes for progress and upward mobility on quota provisions as they only believe that only a government job can be their savior. 

Only putting energies on contesting exams for a government job is certainly generated out of a sense of hopelessness fed by daily discriminations that force such youth to lose any scope for dreaming big. 

What is the meaning of following your passions and discovering your life purpose when you struggle, day in and day out, to make the ends meet every single month? After all, such way of thinking, can be just a prerogative for better off youth who have the luxury of attending quality private schools and are planning to study overseas. 

What’s the point of getting enrolled in leadership trainings when at the end what counts is just the bottom line, getting a job that pays for your rented room and provides for your daily food? Disadvantaged youth of any social economic conditions or physical or mental abilities should have the right to a meaningful pathway of personal progress. 

They should work hard to showcase their abilities, skills and resilience, proving that they can be net contributors to the development of Nepal but let’s be honest: it is also very true that they not only deserve but also have a right to get such a chance and, as per now, this is not happening. Quota provisions could be one of the ways, surely not the only one, to support them in such journey toward autonomy and self-independence. 

Understand the suffering 
The government with this new Bill, while not questioning the need for quotas itself, shows a limited understanding of the struggles faced by persons with disabilities.

If the Act on Rights of People with Disabilities (2017) separates disabilities in four categories, complete, severe, medium and normal disability, the Bill on Federal Civil Service Act is instead focusing on offering quota provisions only for the first three groups. 

The perspective of the government is that those persons with a mild disability should not enjoy the right to any equity provisions and should rather be encouraged to compete at the par with other citizens. According to such logic, only this will offer them dignity and respect among other segments of the population. 

In an ideal world, perhaps it should work this way but it is also true that in an ideal world, the citizens that attempt at starting their professional journey from a disadvantaged point and in particular among those of them who are youth, need all the support and help available. 
It is up to the policy makers to make great efforts to create the conditions, necessarily also through equity based measures, to truly create a level playing field in the real world for such citizens. Any change to quota legislation should only happen through dialogue and as far as possible, through consensus among those groups who are supposed to directly benefit from them. 

If you experience discrimination and in general you have less chance at life and the goal of a level playing field in the society is still far on the horizons, it is oblivious that, any abrupt change in the policies supposedly aimed at altering the status quo for better, would generate anger and further alienation. 

Quotas help
Quotas are not the definitive and the forever solution to end discrimination but if sensitively and smartly adopted, can make a real change.  While there is a lot of focus on positive discrimination formulas, a national conversation should also include other types of supportive actions like mentorship programs, targeted scholarships and innovative tools like Future Income Sharing Agreements (FISAs) that allows a youth to plan their future based on a flexible and supportive loan mechanisms. 

There is a wealth of possible actions that could be strengthened to help a vulnerable youth towards self-empowerment, raising the odds that she can make it and be successful. While for now the heat is on the government side, such conversation on accessible education, employability and job access for the vulnerable segments of the society should necessarily and inevitably involve also a more enlightened and farseeing corporate sector. 

The author is Co-Founder of ENGAGE, an NGO partnering with youths living with disabilities


Leave A Comment