A prominent Dalit face of the BJP, Thawar Chand Gehlot, who has been reassigned the portfolio of the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry, is likely to take charge on Monday.
The 71-year-old minister, during his tenure in the last government, had launched several schemes and programmes for the empowerment and welfare of the deprived sections of society as well as for the persons with disabilities and the elderly.
Initiatives which stood out under his leadership include the passage of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill in Parliament and enforcement of the amended SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the passage of the long-pending Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill in Lok Sabha last year.
Gehlot had revised the Scheme of National Overseas Scholarship for SCs, by removing a mandatory norm for them to return to the country and work here after the completion of their studies.
The ministry had also decided to bear the entire expenditure incurred by Dalit and Backward Class students on coaching for competitive examinations by doing away with the cap of Rs 20,000 under the Free Coaching for SC and OBC.
Several activities which include building a Rs 100-crore monument at 26, Alipur Road where the father of the Constitution BR Ambedkar breathed his last, establishing a Rs 192-crore International Ambedkar Study Centre at 15, Janpath and releasing Rs 125 coin and a stamp were undertaken by the Ministry under his leadership.
Under the Accessible India Campaign (AIC), the disability division of the ministry made major strides in creating universal accessibility for disabled in built environment, transport, and Information & Communication Technology (ICT) ecosystem.
So far, access audit of 1,662 buildings in 50 cities has been completed by the auditors.
All 34 international airports and 48 domestic airports in the country have been provided with accessible features such as ramps, accessible toilets, lifts with Braille symbols and auditory signals. Out of 709 ‘A-1’, ‘A’ and ‘B’ category railway stations, 670 railway stations have been provided with all short-term facilities and 639 railway stations have been provided with all long-term facilities.
Also, 8.4 per cent public transport buses of 58 SRTUs (State/UT-wise total bus fleet and buses in public sector) have been provided overall accessibility.
Out of 100 central government ministries/departments, websites of 94 ministries/departments have been made accessible so far.
The Department has already initiated a Unique Disability Identification project with a view to create a national database for PwDs, to issue unique disability ID (UDID) card along with disability certificate to everyone.