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Food Processing Industry need to employ Persons with Disabilities: ASSOCHAM

National Conference on “Sustainable Development of Persons with Disabilities through Food Processing Industries” held

assocham-warns-of-impact-of-china-on-indian-steel-sector_4923NewZNew (Chandigarh) : Food processing industry has emerged as a high-growth and high-profit sector which should work towards enhancing employment opportunities for nearly 26 crores persons with disabilities in India.

The low employment of such persons in the food processing industry was major focus of discussions at the ASSOCHAM’s national conference on “Sustainable Development of Persons with Disabilities through Food Processing Industries”.

Dr. Kamlesh Kumar Pandey, Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment Government of India in his address said that one may hardly find any job or assignment that cannot be performed by the persons with disabilities. If given the proper environment, majority of them can be made economically productive and useful citizens. But as things stand today, the situation is quite precarious in both developed and developing countries, where working age persons with disabilities experience significantly lower employment rates and much higher unemployment rates than in case of persons without disabilities.He proposed that there should be coherence in the policy outlook of the government as there multiple ministries and bodies are involved.

Earlier ASSOCHAM’s Chairman, State Coordination Committee, Shri Ashok Khanna said that The Food Processing Industry in India has the potential to contribute to the country’s agricultural growth and employment, alleviate rural poverty, guarantee food and nutritional security and contain food inflation and reduce burden on agricultural sector for creation of livelihood for the rural poor and the people with disability.

Smt Rama Chari, Director, Diversity and Equal Opportunity Centre (DEOC) said that people with disabilities comprise between 4 and 10 percent of the Indian population (around 40-90 million individuals) and slow progress in expanding opportunities for disabled people in India results in substantial losses to people with disabilities themselves, and to the society and  economy at large in terms of under-developed human capital, loss of output from productive disabled people, and impacts on households and communities.

Shri S K Gulati, IAS, Additional Chief Secretary , Department of Social Justice and Empowerment , Government of Haryana, in his address said that according to the Census 2011, there are 26 crores person with disability in India, which includes persons with visual, hearing, and speech impairments, locomotors impairment and mental disabilities.

He also added that the earlier emphasis on medical rehabilitation has now been replaced by an emphasis on social rehabilitation with right based approach. There has been an increasing recognition of abilities   of persons with disabilities and emphasis on mainstreaming them in the society based on their capabilities. People with disabilities constitute a huge talent pool.

Food Processing Industry (FPI) is traditionally dominated by unorganized players while entry of multi-national companies is driving the growth of organized segment in the industry. Industry growth along with demand for quality standards and technology adoption in manufacturing are driving the need for fresh skilling and up-skilling in the sector, Mr Gulati added.

Dr P M Ghole, Chief General Manager, NABARD- Punjab in his special address said that optimum opportunities must be provided so as to galvanize the potentials and capabilities of the persons with disabilities in food processing industries. Accordingly, a number of schemes/ plans formulated by the Government of India are being implemented for instituting and modernizing food processing units, creation of infrastructure, research and development and human resource development,’ apart from other promotional measures aimed at expanding the processed food sector. Ironically, there is abysmally lack of awareness or dissemination of information among the persons with disabilities and their careers about the avenues of their engagement in food processing related activities as a sustainable source of livelihood.

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