Govt drops disability-related questions from National Family Health Survey
New Delhi, May 26: The government has decided to drop questions related to disability in the National Family Health Survey-6 scheduled to start on July 1. The decision has dismayed many disability rights activists, who say it would be a lost opportunity to get disaggregated disability data that could guide policies.
“The last NFHS of 2019-21, which included questions on disability, had indicated that 4.5% of the population constituted people with disabilities, much higher than the 2011 census estimate of 2.2%. This survey, which covers approximately seven lakh households, is a huge opportunity to get important data on the access that people with disabilities have to amenities like water, sanitation, mobiles etc.,” explained Rama Chari, director of Diversity and Equal Opportunity Centre.
A principal investigator for the survey explained that questions on disability, which were included for the first time in the 2019-21 NFHS-5 survey, did not give accurate data. “Disability is decided on medical certification. Our surveyors are not doctors and they cannot be checking medical certificates. People could not even understand the questions properly. NFHS technical advisory committee asked for the question to be dropped rather than give inaccurate data. That is also why the data on disability collected in the last survey was never put out,” explained the principal investigator. The official added that a separate and more detailed survey on disability would be more appropriate, as NFHS could not be the answer for all questions.
Disability activists asked why self-declaration was not good enough for disability when the caste of a person is decided on self-declaration in such surveys and not by checking certificates. “While NFHS needed to sharpen its questionnaire on the disability front and make it more relevant by consulting people with disabilities, it has reversed the process by removing disability related questions altogether,” said a statement issued by Disability Rights India Foundation.
It stated that the decision to remove disability related questions from its survey was contradicting the principle of “leave no one behind” under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 and added that even the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require disaggregated disability data. India is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and SDGs which emphasise the need for governments to collect statistical and research data to formulate and implement policies.
The statement urged the health ministry, social justice and empowerment ministry and Niti Aayog to immediately intervene and facilitate the inclusion of questions on disability in NFHS-6 in consultation with persons with disabilities. (Courtesy: TOI)