An issue ordered by the School education department of Punjab has stated to ban using words ‘handicapped’ and ‘viklang’ for differently-abled children. The order was issued to all district education officers (DEOs), which stated, “In English, differently-abled children should be referred as ‘Persons With Disabilities’ and in Hindi/Punjabi, the term ‘Divyangjan’ has to be used. The words such as ‘handicapped’ and ‘viklang’ should in no case be used for children”.
However, some activists working for the rights of differently-abled in Punjab ojected the use of word ‘divyang’ saying that it is a Hindi word and cannot be used in Punjabi too. They have demanded that the government specify an authentic Punjabi language word to be used in official communications instead of imposing Hindi word ‘Divyang’ for Punjabi too.
The orders, issued from the office of Direction General of School Education (DGSE) Punjab dated December 3 read, “As per the notification issued by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, children with special needs should be referred to as ‘Persons With Disabilities’ (PwDs) in English and ‘Divyangjan’ in Hindi/Punjabi.”
A separate order has been issued by department of social security, woman and child development (disability branch), government of Punjab, which too have been sent to DEOs, say, “Use of words like viklang, handicapped is perceived as an offence to PwDs and thus is in contrary to the spirit of the Act/UNCRPD.”
The issue also states that as India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the Act has been enacted by the government of India in line with the spirit of this convention.
A source from Punjab education department said, “We run a separate component, Inclusive Education for Disabled (IED), under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan for children with disabilities. Under this, we refer to children as ‘differently-abled’ in case of physical disability or ‘children with special needs’ (CWSN) in case of intellectual disabilities. Words like handicapped or viklang are hardly used now with increasing awareness but still, there are some officials who use such words.”
Balwinder Singh, the state coordinator for Apang Swang Lok Manch (Asul), said, “We object to the usage of Hindi word ‘Divyangjan’ in Punjabi too. The government cannot impose a pure Hindi word in the Punjabi language especially in Punjab where all official communication is written in Punjabi. The government should specify an authentic Punjabi word.”
Prashant Kumar, director general of school education (DGSE) Punjab, said the orders were issued in line with directives received from the state’s social security department.