Railways to confine term Divyangjan to Hindi communications
The Ministry of Railways will confine the usage of Divyangjan to Hindi and replace the term with ‘Persons with disabilities’ in English communications. On the suggestion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the word Viklang was replaced with Divyaang (divine body) to refer to persons with disabilities in 2016.
After the change in nomenclature, people with disabilities were referred to as Divyangjan, particularly by the Ministry of Railways in all its communications, signage, announcements etc. Even the ticket reservation portal of the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) introduced Divyaang as the option to avail rail travel concession for differently abled passengers.
Raising it in the Lok Sabha, Member of Parliament D.N.V Senthil Kumar of Dharmapuri constituency in Tamil Nadu called for replacing Divyangjan with an English reference since it was not understood by many rail users, particularly in southern India.
“Being an MP even I don’t know what it means…when everything is in English [in the IRCTC’s reservation portal] why have this terminology, which I am told is a Hindi word derived from Sanskrit. It would make it difficult for a common man who doesn’t know Hindi to understand the meaning and avail the benefits extended to differently abled passengers,” Dr. Senthil Kumar told The Hindu.
After he raised the issue, the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, wrote to the Ministry of Railways asking them to use the term ‘Person with disability’ in English and Divyangjan in Hindi in their portal and communications/signage/announcements while addressing persons with disabilities. The IRCTC was also told to make appropriate changes in their reservation system.
The note said India was a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Central government enacted the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, in line with the convention. The term ‘persons with disabilities’ was used in the English text of the Act while in Hindi it was mentioned as Divyangjan.
Acting on the advisory, the Railway Board on May 7, 2022, issued instructions to General Managers of all Zonal Railways to ensure implementation of the change in terms.
In 2019, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had marked the word Divyangjan as controversial and similar to derogatory terminologies such as ‘mentally ill’ or ‘lunatic.