‘Though top UPA leaders agreed to our proposal, bureaucrats have turned it down’

Differently-abled groups staged a protest outside Shastri Bhavan here on Monday, demanding that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting telecasts the Republic Day Parade through sign language interpretation on all six channels of national broadcaster Doordarshan, especially DD National.

After a meeting with the officials of the Defence Ministry, the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, the Disabled Rights Group convenor Javed Abidi said: “Even though top leaders in the United Progressive Alliance Government had agreed to our proposal, bureaucrats in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting have turned it down. In my 20 years of activism, I have taken up various issues like building ramps for the disabled, but have never been so disappointed with the system. Deaf people want to watch the Republic Day Parade on not only DD Bharti, DD News and DD Urdu, but also DD National which is watched across the country.”

Mr. Abidi said: “In our earlier meeting with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, she instantly agreed to the DRG’s demand and even spoke to Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari about it. He directed the Ministry Secretary to follow our proposal. Even Defence Minister A.K. Antony agreed to our demand. But in today’s meeting the babus tried to hide behind technicalities. Actually, they lack the will to implement this. One official even went to the extent of saying that they cannot spoil the Republic Day Parade telecast on television because of one per cent of population (disabled).”

Stating that India is home to over 18 million deaf people, Mr. Abidi said when the government of the country ratified the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), it made a promise to the world that it would ensure that deaf people are treated equally and enjoy the same rights as other Indian citizens.

“However, since Independence and even after the ratification of UNCRPD in 2007, the deaf community has been completely excluded when it comes to being a part of national celebrations such as Republic Day or Independence Day. There has never been an accessible live telecast via sign language interpretation or even captioning in the history of our country.”

Mr. Abidi said for the disabled, especially the deaf persons, this is a sensitive matter which is close to their heart. “We do not want any tokenism. We will not sit quiet till our demand is met. Our realistic, simple demand is absolutely non-negotiable.”

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