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  Table of Contents 
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 26  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 230-233

Unequal representation of persons with disabling mental health conditions in the quota-based employment reservations notified by a public service commission

1 Department of Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
2 Department of Psychiatric Social Work, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission29-Jul-2021
Date of Decision15-Nov-2021
Date of Acceptance31-Dec-2021
Date of Web Publication24-Dec-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Hareesh Angothu
Department of Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru - 560 029, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijoem.ijoem_239_21

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Introduction: The Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act 2016 of India intends to achieve greater representation of persons with benchmark disabilities (PwBD) at government establishments and reserve at least 4% of employment vacancies for PwBD. Of this 4%, 1% is reserved for PwBD with disabling mental health conditions (PwBD-MHC) and multiple disabilities, and 1% each for PwBD due to other disabling conditions like blindness, hearing, and locomotor impairment. Methods: We analyzed all the employment vacancy announcements (EVAs) made by the Indian union public service commission (UPSC) during the calendar year 2020 for their adherence to quota-based employment reservations (QBER). Results: Eighteen vacancy advertisements made during the year 2020, for a total of 1370 posts under various departments, announced a total of 57 posts as reserved for PwBD under the QBER system, satisfying the minimum 4% quota. However, none of these posts is reserved for PwBD-MHC. Further, only 7 out of 1370 were described as suitable for PwBD-MHC, implying that 1363 are not suitable for them. Conclusions: The QBER system and the subdivision of quotas are well-intended to achieve the minimum representation of PwBD across all categories of jobs. However, the EVAs by UPSC in the year 2020 did not reserve any posts for PwBD-MHC and perhaps inadvertently excluded them from consideration for the majority of posts announced even under the unreserved category.

Keywords: Benchmark disability, person with a disability, posts identification, quota-based employment, reservation, RPwD Act 2016

How to cite this article:
Angothu H, Philip S, Jadhav P, Jayarajan D, Jagannathan A, Prasad M K, Thirthalli J. Unequal representation of persons with disabling mental health conditions in the quota-based employment reservations notified by a public service commission. Indian J Occup Environ Med 2022;26:230-3

How to cite this URL:
Angothu H, Philip S, Jadhav P, Jayarajan D, Jagannathan A, Prasad M K, Thirthalli J. Unequal representation of persons with disabling mental health conditions in the quota-based employment reservations notified by a public service commission. Indian J Occup Environ Med [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Apr 1];26:230-3. Available from:

  Introduction Top

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act 2016 (hereafter referred to as the Act 2016) defines a Person with Disability (PwD) as “a person with long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory which, in interaction with barriers, hinders his/her full and effective participation in society equally with others,” and Person with Benchmark Disability (PwBD) as “a person with not less than forty percent of a specified disability as certified by the competent certifying authority according to the assessment guidelines.”[1] The Act 2016 also mandates that all governmental establishments (GEs) reserve at least 4% of all employment vacancies for PwBDs. This 4% reservation, which can be described as quota-based employment reservation (QBER), is further subdivided by allotting 1% for one of four broad categories. While 1% of posts are meant for persons with locomotor difficulties, 1% for visual difficulties, and 1% for hearing impairment, only 1% is allotted for a disproportionately diverse fourth pool, comprising of PwBDs with mental health conditions (PwBD-MHC), as well as persons with multiple disabilities. Thus, the Act 2016 acknowledges the multidimensional and social model of disability, but it restricts access to social welfare measures like the QBER to only the PwBD. Among the 20 specified disabilities, mental illness, autism spectrum disorders, specific learning disability, and intellectual disability (ID) are the four conditions certifiable by a qualified psychiatrist and are grouped as mental health conditions (MHCs) for a discussion in this article.[2] PwD-MHC may be at a more significant disadvantage than other PwD with motor or sensory impairments in gaining and sustaining employment. Symptoms of mental illness, academic under-achievements, medication side-effects, and poor occupational history have been reported to be individual-specific barriers to employment.[3] Among the persons with mental disorders, those with stable employment in comparison to those without stable employment use mental health services less, reducing the population level costs of mental health care.[4]

On the other hand, unemployment negatively impacts emotions, health, and social life[5] and is an independent risk factor for depression.[6] Unemployment negatively impacts family members of persons with MHC too.[7] An observation that reemployment improves the quality of life in persons experiencing the negative consequences of unemployment or job loss suggests a cause-effect relationship between employment and wellbeing.[8]

There is an inter-relationship between disability, adverse mental health, and unemployment, with each factor exacerbating others. While there is a universal agreement for the inclusion of PwDs due to MHC in various domains of social life, including employment, the approaches to enhance inclusion differ among countries. Germany, Austria, France, and India have adopted a strategy, i.e., quota-based employment reservation (QBER) policy to include PWD.[9] A report published by the International labour organization (ILO) indicates that about 103 countries have QBER for PwD at the workplace. QBER ranges from 1% to 10%, and wide variations are reported in the sectors of employment included for QBER and the size of establishments included under this. Decrees, levying fines on noncompliant establishments, providing incentives for compliant establishments are used across countries to encourage the fulfillment of QBER. In some countries like Japan inclusion of one Person with severe ID at employment under QBER is considered equivalent to the provision of jobs to two PwD under QBER.[10]

Quota-based employment reservation in India

QBER for PwBD began with a 3% reservation in employment under the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Act 1995. The Act 2016 replacing it increased the QBER to 4%. The published reports by the department of personnel and training reveal that as of January 2016, under the 78 Ministries or departments of the Government of India (GOI), there were only 22,692 employees with benchmark disabilities corresponding to less than 1% of around 3.3 million posts under the GOI.[11] We were unable to find data on the number of employees recruited under the 1% quota meant for PwBD with MHC, under the GEs, or the union and state Governments, even four years after the introduction of the Act 2016. Under the PWD Act 1995, a 3% QBER for physical and sensory disabilities had been in force since 1996; thus, examining the number of PwBD employees in GEs may not reflect the implementation of the latest QBER provisions for PwBD-MHC mandated by the Act 2016. Instead, examining inclusion or exclusion criteria for employment vacancy announcements (EVAs) under various GEs would be the better approach to analyze the following research questions, which have significant policy implications.

Indian Union Public Service Commission

Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducts exams for millions of job aspirants every year and recruits hundreds of people, including PwBDs, for various posts under various departments. UPSC reports that it had advertised for 1190 posts under 26 different departments, and it received three million applications,[12] indicating the desirability of employment in the public services and the patency of the UPSC notification and selection system.

Research question of this study

Whether or not the government establishments are adhering to the legal mandate of reserving 1% of announced job vacancies for PwBD-MHC, whether a reasonable accommodation is offered to facilitate the inclusion of PwBD-MHC at employment, and if PwBD-MHC is prevented from applying to any posts, for whatsoever reason.

  Methods Top

We analyzed EVAs by the UPSC because it is a constitutional body that conducts the recruitment of eligible candidates for various posts such as administrative, law and justice, railways, shipping, technical services, etc., EVAs of UPSC from 1st January 2020 to 31st December 2020 were examined. All of these EVAs were advertised through national newspapers at the time of the announcement and are available under the archives of the web portal

Ethical Clearance

This study based on the publicly available data is exempted from ethical review by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) institute ethical committee member secretary as per the provision described under Table 4.2 of Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research 2017, wide letter dated 15 September 2022.

  Discussion Top

As described under [Table 1], out of the 1370 posts advertised through 18 EVAs, a total of 57 posts were reserved for PwBDs, in compliance with the mandatory 4% QBER provision for PwBDs in the Act 2016. However, 1% of all vacancies, 13 posts, should have been reserved for PwBD-MHCs, yet none were reserved. Representation from experts in disability and the user group of PwBDs on the committees that oversaw the current set of EVAs is unknown.
Table 1: EVAs list with posts reserved for PwBD under QBER

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As described in [Table 1], each EVA had a description of total vacancies, the number of posts reserved for PwBD, and the number of posts identified as suitable for PwBD. In all of these 18 EVAs, it has been mentioned that PwBD can apply to all other posts even if the posts were not reserved under QBER, “provided that such post is declared as suitable for PwBD.” To better understand this description, we continued our search beyond these EVAs and examined some relevant official circulars issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT) under the GOI in this regard. DOPT is the authority for creating or modifying service and conduct rules of employees under the GOI. DOPT, in its communication to all GEs titled “Frequently asked questions,” in March 2019, (No. 36035/02/2017-Estt (Res)) stated that “PwBD can apply only against the posts identified as suitable for the relevant category,” in response to the question, “Whether the PwBD can apply against the posts that are not identified suitable for Persons with Benchmark Disabilities?” In the same document, another question, “Whether a PwBD can compete for appointment against an unreserved vacancy?” was answered as follows: “Yes, PwBD can compete for appointment by direct recruitment against an unreserved vacancy if selected without relaxed standards along with other candidates for those posts/services that are identified suitable for them.” This implies that a PwBD's application for a post would not be considered on par with others, and a PwBD would not be recruited to a post on par with others unless such post has been declared as suitable for PwBD at the time of vacancy announcement.

As summarized in [Table 1], a total of 1279 posts out of 1370 have been described as suitable for PwBD with various physical health conditions (PHC), and only seven posts out of 1370 have been identified as “suitable posts for PwBD-MHC.” This suggests PwBD-MHC cannot apply for 99% of posts announced as vacant on par with others.

This post identification as suitable or not suitable has led to the paradoxical exclusion of PwBD-MHC from employment under the GEs. Though this paradoxical exclusion is similar among PwBD-PHC and MHC, the magnitude of the difference is enormous. Adherence of this approach to nondiscrimination principles, respect for differences, and equality of opportunity, as enshrined in the Act 2016, is questionable.

As summarised in [Table 2] a range of relaxations and concessions are offered for PwBD to enhance their inclusion, and they are primarily the same for all PwBDs irrespective of the underlying type of specified disability in terms of age relaxation, fee concession, and eligibility marks. Only PwBD with locomotor difficulty involving the dominant upper hand were eligible to use a scribe for performing a computer-based test (CBT), with an additional 20 minutes compensatory time for every one hour of test time.[11] Unfortunately, this is not offered to PBDs with MHCs, who may benefit from compensatory time at CBT as they often experience cognitive difficulties. The issues we have observed - jobs being identified as suitable or not suitable for PwDs, concession, and relaxations being offered to PwDs only — require further research to understand the knowledge and attitudes influencing current practices, as well as the implications and alternatives for better outcomes. Prima facie, it appears that some processes for the inclusion of PwBD in employment serve as barriers themselves, perhaps inadvertently.
Table 2: Relaxations, concessions for all PwBD (applicable only if the post is identified as suitable for PwBD)

Click here to view


RPwD Act 2016 provides scope for any GE to obtain an exemption from filling specific posts with PwBD, and it is unclear if the respective GEs that announced vacancies through UPSC had sought and obtained such exemption. Therefore, it may be difficult to conclude if these EVAs have failed to adhere to the mandated 1% QBER meant for PwBD-MHC.


Other GEs often follow the selection of PwBD by the UPSC, and this is the first study examining the implementation of QBER for PwBD-MHC.

  Conclusions Top

The 1% QBER mandated by the RPWD Act 2016 for employment under the GE for PwBD-MHC has still not been implemented by various GEs, raising concerns about QBER implementation and the need for reviewing existing practices. Identifying less than 1% of all announced vacant posts as “suitable for PwBD with MHC” raises questions about whether some disabilities are being treated differently from others and whether all aspects of the RPwD Act 2016 are adhered to, both in letter and in spirit.

The effective restriction of relaxation and concessions to only posts designated for PwBD-MHC places them at a manifest disadvantage even when applying for jobs listed under the general category, violating the spirit of their constitutionally guaranteed right to equal opportunity. Certain concessions, relaxations, inclusions, or exclusions are based on the type of disability rather than the individual needs of PwD. There is a need for an in-depth analysis of current practices in the existing system of identifying jobs for persons with disabilities and comparing them to best practices elsewhere.


Policymakers need to identify the gaps and challenges in the implementation of this reservation under QBER. Perhaps as recommended by the ILO, assisting the Employer in defining the eligibility criteria for PwD, assisting the Employer in defining the reasonable accommodation for the selected PwD on a case by case basis,[13] and revising the QBER after a reasonable time would be helpful in effective implementation of the QBER.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

The rights of persons with disabilities Act, 2016 (Act no. 49 of 2016). Available from: [Last accessed on 2020 Nov 20].  Back to cited text no. 1
Guidelines for Assessment of Benchmark Disability as per RPWD Act 2016 (2018). Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Available from: &filename=Guidelines%20 notification_04.01.2018.pdf. [Last accessed on 2020 Dec 28].  Back to cited text no. 2
Thomas TL, Prasad Muliyala K, Jayarajan D, Angothu H, Thirthalli J. Vocational challenges in severe mental illness: A qualitative study in persons with professional degrees. Asian J Psych 2019;42:48-54.  Back to cited text no. 3
van der Noordt M, IJzelenberg H, Droomers M, Proper K. Health effects of employment: A systematic review of prospective studies. Occup Environ Med 2014;71:730-6.  Back to cited text no. 4
Schuring M, Robroek SJ, Burdorf A. The benefits of paid employment among persons with common mental health problems: Evidence for the selection and causation mechanism. Scand J Work Environ Health 2017;43:540-9.  Back to cited text no. 5
Zuelke AE, Luck T, Schroeter ML, Witte AV, Hinz A, Engel C, et al. The association between unemployment and depression-Results from the population-based LIFE-adult-study. J Affect Disord 2018;235:399-406.  Back to cited text no. 6
Brand JE. The far-reaching impact of job loss and unemployment. Annu Rev Sociol 2015;41:359-75.  Back to cited text no. 7
van Rijn RM, Carlier BE, Schuring M, Burdorf A. Work as treatment? The effectiveness of re-employment programmes for unemployed persons with severe mental health problems on health and quality of life: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Occup Environ Med 2016;73:275-9.  Back to cited text no. 8
Julian C. The World and Disability: Quotas or No Quotas? | iGlobal Law. Global Employment Law. 2013. Available from: no-quotas/.  Back to cited text no. 9
International Labour Organization. Gender, Equality, and Diversity & ILOAIDS Branch. Promoting Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities Quota Schemes Volume 1. 2019. Available from:  Back to cited text no. 10
Department of Personnel and Training. Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions Government of India. Annual Report 2018-19. 2019. Available from:  Back to cited text no. 11
Union Public Service Commission. A report on requests received for posts filling. 2018-19. 2020. Retrieved on 17 November 2020. Available from: [Last accessed on 2021 Mar 15].  Back to cited text no. 12
International Labour Organization. Gender, Equality, and Diversity & ILOAIDS Branch. Promoting Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities Quota Schemes Volume 2. 2019. Available from:  Back to cited text no. 13


  [Table 1], [Table 2]


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