FAISALABAD: “I think my birth was the biggest mistake in the world”. These are dark words and speak volumes of the extreme levels of frustration faced by a significant percentage of Pakistan’s workforce which has been written off without even being given a chance to prove its worth.
Those are the words of a person with disabilities, Muhammad Ikhlaq who, despite all efforts has been unable to find any form of gainful employment, even though the law has given him that right.
According to the Disabled Persons Employment and Rehabilitation Ordinance any employer employing over a hundred people has to reserve a two per cent quota for people with disabilities. However, most of the industrialists in Faisalabad were found to be in violation of this law. Legal lacunas in the law are used by public and private sector alike to refuse jobs to people with disabilities.
In fact when questioned the common excuse, according to Sarfraz Chaudhry, District Officer of Social Welfare Department, Faisalabad is that the allocation of two per cent quota was an administrative order and that there was no legal provision for such an allocation.
There is a status quo, businessmen are reluctant to allocate these jobs and the Social Welfare Department has been unsuccessful in getting it implemented. The numbers are quite alarming, especially for a city like Faisalabad which provides thousands of jobs. Two percent of these many thousand would be a respectable number of disabled people who could get meaningful employment.
In Faisalabad approximately 70 per cent of the industries are not implementing the quota. Akhtar Aziz, manager of District Labour Office Faisalabad said that Labour Department simply issued a certificate of disability with the coordination of District Assessment Board for people with disabilities. He said it was the responsibility of the Social Welfare Department to implement this. Strangely enough, while Sarfraz Chaudhry agreed that it was the responsibility of his department he did not have an answer as to why the department failed to implement it. There is a way around this. Chaudhry said that in case of industries where requirements are such that disabled people cannot work, the owners are legally bound to give funds to the Social Welfare Department. This department then distributes the fund among people with disabilities who are unable to get jobs. This too, has so far not been implemented.
The government enacted the Disabled Persons Employment and Rehabilitation Ordinance 1981 for the benefit of people with disabilities. This applies to both government and private enterprises.
One reason for non-implementation could be the fact that the penalty is ridiculous. Any establishment which fails to give funds in case it cannot provide employement to a disabled person, will be fined a maximum Rs1,000 and in the case of non payment of the fine an additional fine of Rs10.
To make things worse, a disabled person cannot even apply to get these benefits until and unless he can first get the certificate of disability.
This certificate is provided by the District Assessment Board in every district headquarters hospital. The procedure is tedious. A surgeon has to first give his approval before the process for getting the certificate can be started. Muhammad Ikhlaq has been trying for months and so far has failed to get this certificate.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2011.