New Delhi: With over 8 million persons in India suffering from autism and other development disorders, National Advisory Council chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Monday said public policy has not kept pace with their needs and the differently-abled remained deprived of their rights.
Despite many initiatives and policy changes in the country, Gandhi lamented, "I feel that formation of public policy in our countries has not kept pace" and said that nothing significant has been given to the disabilities sector.
"In the absence of adequate institutional support mechanism, the differently-abled remain deprived of their rights," Gandhi said, inaugurating the South Asian Autism Network Conference here today.
She called for concerted joint action to help make the world comfortable for people with disabilities, especially those suffering from autism.
"We need to make this world comfortable for them," she said, adding that there was need for greater and more systematic approach on the issue.
Gandhi said even though autism had widespread prevalence, its understanding remained elusive.
Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said that during the Dhaka Declaration after the international conference on autism in July 2011 there, nine priority actions to realise the vision to meet healthcare needs of children with developmental disorders were endorsed by all member nations of South East Asia region.
He said, "Today we are meeting again to take forward this important public health initiative to safeguard against discrimination and social exclusion."
Gandhi said the use of new technology like computers has led to considerable advantage in behavioral training and newer ways of communication for children with autism, but stressed on not forgetting the poor who cannot afford such technology.
"Let us not forget that the poor hardly have access to any such technology," she said, adding that Autism Spectre Disorders is on the increase and in India alone there are probably more than 8 million individuals with the condition.
The UPA chairperson said mothers of children with autism and other development disorders suffer a lot by thinking about the future of their children. "Because life-long afflicted children need life-long support. For this reason, we should come forward and help them," she said.
Azad hoped the outcome of deliberations leading to the Delhi Declaration would be another historical guidepost in the long journey of meeting the unmet needs of children, families and communities suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorders.
The conference has helped focus the attention of the region and the world on children with autism and other development disorders and the leaders lauded the efforts of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who organised the first such initiative in Dhaka in 2011.
Chairperson, National Advisory Committee on Neuro Developmental Disorder and Autism Saima Wazed Hossain, who is also Bangladesh Prime Minister`s daughter, Minister of State for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath and Minister of State of Social Justice & Empowerment Selja also addressed the gathering.
Health Ministers of various SEAR nations including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka, besides Timor-Leste also spoke.