Forty five Sangam age books to be made available in Braille format free of cost

A visually challenged lawyer from Madurai filed a PIL plea seeking a direction to the State to bring out the Braille version of Thirukkural in Tamil and English

October 19, 2022 09:17 pm | Updated 09:17 pm IST - MADURAI

Taking note of the fact that the Central Institute of Classical Tamil, Chennai, is going to distribute 45 ‘Sanga Ilakkiya Noolgal’ and ‘Thirukkural’ in Braille format free of cost to visually challenged persons, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court appreciated the steps taken by authorities.

A Division Bench of Justices R. Mahadevan and J. Sathya Narayana Prasad was told that 75% of the work had been completed, and the work would be completed by December-end. According to a communication from the Director of the Tamil Development Department, visually challenged persons could send a copy of their identity card along with the required details to the Director, Central Institute of Classical Tamil (CICT), Chemmozhi Salai, Perumbakkam, Chennai -600 100, Tamil Nadu, and the books would be delivered to them.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation petition filed in 2018 by P. Ramkumar of Madurai, a visually challenged lawyer, seeking a direction to the State to bring out the Braille version of Thirukkural in Tamil and English.

The court observed: “We are in the era of a global ‘book famine’, which means non-availability of books and printed works in an accessible format for the people with 'print disabilities', including the visually challenged”.

The court said it was coined in the context of adoption of the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons, who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. The Marrakesh Treaty focuses on addressing the intellectual property (copyright) barriers, besides highlighting the dearth of accessibility of books to persons with disabilities and the importance of breaking such barriers to eradicate the 'book famine'.

The public interest litigation petition reflected a situation of book famine, qua Braille form of Thirukkural in Tamil and English for the visually impaired, the judges noted.

In a counter affidavit, the State submitted that the Braille version of Thirukkural and related materials were available in the market. It was submitted that the National Institute for the Empowerment of Persons with Visual Disabilities (Divyangjan) was the competent authority to distribute Thirukkural in Braille format free of cost.

It was further submitted that the State through the Tamil Development Department had taken all earnest steps to promote and disseminate Tamil literature, more particularly, Thirukkural. The Indian Association for the Blind in Chennai and Madurai had brought out seven-volume Thirukkural in Braille in Tamil and English and were selling it at the concessional rate of ₹1,960. Various other organisations were selling the audio format of Thirukkural. Divyangjan Regional Centre was distributing the book in Braille format free of cost.

“There cannot be any dispute that Thirukkural, a holy book like the Bible and the Quran, has been accepted to be universally applicable to everyday life to every sphere and has been translated in more than 90 languages. It has been considered as the gem of moral philosophies covering all branches of life. It is also known as truthful utterances”, the judges observed.

Thirukkural taught morality and wisdom, the judges observed and directed the authorities to give wide publication about the availability of Sangam literature and Thirukkural in Braille in Tamil so as to enable visually challenged persons to read, recite, understand and enjoy the glory and culture of this land. The petitioner was at liberty to approach the CICT to receive the Braille version of Thirukkural and other texts free of cost, the judges said.

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