Disability disaggregated data is the corner stone for disability relevant services in any country. Countries world-over including the United Nations and other international bodies are now developing toolkits and strategies to broaden their disability database. In India, we can use our existing mechanisms and National Family Health Survey (NFHS), is well placed to collect disability related data. However, it will be an opportunity lost by NOT including disability in its forthcoming NFHS-6 survey which is scheduled to commence from July 2023.
National Family Health Survey (NFHS) is being carried out every 3 years with countrywide sampling. Whilst NFHS-5 (2019-21) had disability related questions and collected data on disabilities, information from reliable sources confirm that NFHS-6 has dropped questions on disability from its survey questionnaire. Going forward, whilst NFHS needed to sharpen its questionnaire on the disability front and make it more relevant by consulting people with disabilities, it has reversed the process by removing disability related questions altogether.
At the national level, the decision to remove disability related questions from its survey is contradicting its principle of “leave no one behind” under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. It is particularly regressive given that India is also a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Article 31 of CRPD emphasises ‘States parties to collect appropriate information, including statistical and research data, to enable them to formulate and implement policies to give effect to the present Convention.’ It should also be noted that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires disability disaggregated data. NFHS is collecting a broad range of data on family, health status, health services, access to sanitation, domestic violence etc. that feed into various country wide policies and programmes. It is therefore vital that they include disability in the questionnaire.