A Delhi-based disability rights activist has raised concerns over Krishak Bharati Cooperative Limited (KRIBHCO), a multi-state cooperative society, terminating the job of a post graduate in rural management due to his partial visual impairment after making him an offer. The activist, Satendra Singh, has pointed out that section 3(3) of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPWD), 2016, which covers both public and private organisations, implicitly states that “no person with disability shall be discriminated on the ground of disability”.
Singh, who is also an associate professor at the University College of Medical Sciences and G.T.B. Hospital in Delhi, stepped in after Animesh Raj Gupta, who secured employment with KRIBHCO on February 7, brought the termination to his notice.
KRIBHCO is a major producer of urea and owns the country’s largest fertiliser plant at Hazira in Gujarat.
Job offer made during campus placement
Gupta had received his offer letter with details of his Rs 9.84 lakh package from KRIBHCO in mid-February. The offer contained details of his salary, bond for recruitment, termination details and medical reports. The formats for the medical report and character verification report were attached with the offer letter. He said he was asked to submit all these details at the time of his joining on May 1.
After a medical check-up from a government hospital in Ramnagar, Varanasi on April 18, Gupta learnt that he had colour blindness. The doctor, however, informed him that it would not hamper his career in marketing. The doctor was wrong. When Gupta arrived at KRIBHCO on May 1 and presented his medical report, the receiving officer took the documents to the general manager (human resources) and then to the executive director (HR).
Officials misunderstand constraints of colour blindness
The executive director (HR) later called Gupta and misunderstanding the constraints of his colour blindness and believing that he would not be able to see/observe red and green colour, asked him to read text in these colours on a desktop. Gupta said he was able to read all the text without any difficulty. He said the officer then showed him an Ishihara colour chart (used to diagnose colour blindness) on the desktop and asked him to identify the number written in the cards, which he claimed he was largely able to do.
Gupta said the officials told him that since the doctor had not provided him with a medical fitness certificate, they would need to discuss the issue with the marketing team. He said he was told to get another check-up, which too showed the same result that he had partial colour blindness.
The candidate was again interviewed on May 3 by the marketing director, who again asked him to read the green text in a file and asked him about his driving licence status. Though Gupta said he had a valid licence till 2034, it was communicated to him later in the day that his employment had been terminated and the cooperative could not recruit him.
Appeal to management evokes anger, scorn
Gupta subsequently met managing director N. Sambasiva Rao (the managing director) in the presence of executive director (HR), who, he claimed, told him, “We don’t take any handicapped or disabled candidates. Even doctor has not provide you medical fitness certificate and thus our rules do not allow the recruitment.”
Though Gupta tried to explain that colour blindness was not considered a form of disability by the government and people suffering from it are only barred from jobs relating to public safety or technical work that requires colour details, his appeals were in vain. In fact, he insisted that Rao got agitated and told him, “At such small level you are talking about rules and regulations to me.” Gupta said he added, “we don’t want to carry any baggage in KRIBHCO.”
Though Gupta later also approached the chairman, Chandrapal Singh Yadav, who is a Rajya Sabha MP from Samajwadi Party, it did not help his cause. On May 19 he was told by the executive director (HR)’s office that his services had been terminated and he need not pursue the case with their office further. However, Gupta has till date not received a termination letter.
‘KRIBHCO action violates disability act’
In view of these developments, Singh wrote to the chairman and managing director of KRIBHCO, which is headquartered in Noida, that the fact that Gupta was selected through campus placement “indicates his competence” and that he was shocked by the manner of his termination.
Singh said such action was in gross violation of the RPWD Act 2016, which states that establishments cannot “discriminate on the ground of disability”. He said that the Act clearly lays down that “the head of the establishment shall ensure that the provisions of sub-section (3) of section 3 of the Act are not misused to deny any right and benefit to persons with disabilities covered under the Act.”
Further, the disability rights activist said the Act also lays down under section 21(1) that “every establishment shall notify equal opportunity policy” and under section 22 that “every establishment shall maintain records of the persons with disabilities in relation to the matter of employment, facilities provided and other necessary information”.
He also reminded the KRIBHCO management that Chapter XVI of the Act lists punishments (financial as well as imprisonment) for contravention of the provisions of the Act or rules or regulations made thereunder.
‘Reinstate with full honours or face legal action’
In light of all these protections provided under the Act, Singh has urged the KRIBHCO management to reconsider its decision and reinstate Gupta with full honours in accordance with the law. He said a case would otherwise have to be filed in the Court of Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities for the violation of the 2016 Act.
Incidentally, KRIBHCO has been regularly supporting the cause of persons with disabilities through its corporate social responsibility initiatives. According to its website, it even distributes tricycles to them. But in this case, it has acted very differently.