There is no accurate count of persons with disabilities in India, due to which many of them are deprived of access to social welfare grants and schemes, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment told the Union government in a report on Thursday.

The committee, led by Bharatiya Janata MP Rama Devi, made the statement in its report on the action taken by the government on the basis of recommendations that it had made in March.

The panel on Thursday said that as per the 2011 Census, there were 2.68 crore persons with disabilities in the country, accounting for 2.31% of the population.

However, the panel said that since the next Census has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the actual number of those with disabilities will be available after a year or two.

The panel said that it had recommended that the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities should use available means to arrive at an estimate of the population. However, the panel said, the department used only the Unique Disability IDs issued to beneficiaries as a means to estimate the population.

“The contention of the Department that UDID [Unique Disability ID] scheme was a suitable parameter for estimating the PwD [persons with disabilities] population in the country may not work, as, by the department’s own admission, they have issued 94.09 lakh UDID cards so far whereas the PwD population even 10 years ago was more than double that number,” it said.

The panel noted that states were conducting surveys to update the population of persons with disabilities and said that the central department could also explore similar options.

“The committee feel that there is an urgent requirement to explore innovative solutions to this issue,” it added. “They therefore reiterate their earlier recommendation that the Department must explore other avenues and collaborate with the state governments and other departments/organisations, who are engaged in implementation of the schemes for welfare of PwDs, in order to arrive at a realistic assessment of the PwD population in the country.”

The report comes a month after Opposition parties had criticised the government for dropping disability-related questions from the National Family Health Survey, reported The Hindu. The Union health ministry had justified the decision on June 22, saying that most of the data was available through the 76th round of the National Sample Survey done in 2018.

However, the panel report showed that the Department of Empowerment of Persons had said that the main objective of the National Sample Survey conducted in 2018 was to estimate indicators of disability such as cause, onset, facilities available to the disabled persons, among other things.

“This data is used during policy formulation for empowerment of PwDs,” it added. “However, in this survey, there is no account of total number of PwDs presently in India.”