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Hope for disability sector

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"We're delighted that after several years, `disability' as a core sector has found mention in the Budget."

NEW DELHI, Feb. 28

IT'S been a big day for the disability sector. Apart from deduction in income tax and reduction in import duties, both part of their demands, being announced in the Union Budget, what has perked them up the most is the fact that their problems have been recognised as a core issue in the country.

"We're delighted that after a long gap of several years, `disability' as a core sector has found mention in the Union Budget," said the Disabled Rights Group's (DRG) convenor, Mr Javid Abidi.

The Budget announced that the physically challenged or persons with such dependents would be entitled to a deduction of Rs 50,000 for permanent physical disability and enhanced deduction of Rs 75,000 in case of severe disability.

It also proposed a reduction in customs duty on hearing aids, crutches, wheel chairs, walking frames, tricycles, Braille and artificial limbs to 5 per cent without Special Additional Duty. Previously, the customs duty was a whopping 20 per cent. Disability aids would be exempt from CVD and domestic manufacturers would be exempt from excise duty. Customs duty on parts of hearing aids and wheel chairs is proposed to be reduced to 5 per cent without CVD and SAD.

However, DRG wondered at the logic of making two income tax slabs — one for the permanent disabled and the other for the severely disabled. "How will the differentiation be made," asked Mr Abidi, adding that this could create a lot of contentious problems.

Even in the case of reduction in customs duty for disability aids, DRG felt that total exemption was desirable, but the substantial reduction will also have a great and positive impact on the disability goods market and companies will no longer bypass India. With lower prices, many more will be able to access these aids.

DRG said it was making a representation to the Finance Minister on these issues.

Dr Anita Ghai, a disability activist, further pointed out that though the Budget had addressed the problems of the middle-class disabled, the interface between poverty and disability had still been excluded.

A proposal to provide Rs 100 as social security to the disabled poor had not seen light of day.

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