National Association of the Deaf organized Nation Deaf Conference to come up with strategies for demanding the autonomy of Indian Sign Language Research & Training Centre. This was held on 15th March, 2015 in Action for Ability Development and Inclusion (AADI), 2, Balbir Saxena Marg, Hauz Khas, New Delhi
Around 85 deaf participants came from all over India which included national deaf bodies like Mr. Zorin Singha (President of NAD), Mr. A. S. Narayanan (Secretary of NAD), Mr. Onkar Sharma (General Secretary of All India Federation of the Deaf), Mrs. Uma Kapoor (General Secretary of All India Foundation of Women Deaf), Mr. T. K. M. Sandeep (CEO of Deaf Enabled Foundation), Mr. Aqil (India Deaf Society), Mr. Sunil Sahasrabudhe (ISL Teacher), Mr. Sujit Sahasrabudhe ( ISL Researcher), Mr. Sibaji Panda (Lecturer of Uclan University UK), Dr. Madan Vasishta (PhD of Gallaudet University USA) & Dr. Surinder Randhawa (PhD & Professor of BAASLS). It was unanimous decision to demand for the autonomy of ISLRTC.
On 16th March 2015, We met with three Ministers:
- Shri Arun Jaitley, Hon’ble Finance Minister
- Shri Nitin Gadkhari, Hon’ble Minister for Road and Transport
- Shri Thaawar Chand Gehlot, Hon’ble Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment
We made them aware our strong disagreement with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment’s decision to merge ISLRTC with NIHH. We asked them for their support to make ISLRTC a standalone, autonomous centre under the Ministry.
We are writing this to seek your support in preventing a great injustice towards 10 million deaf citizens of India. Majority of our deaf countrymen use Indian Sign Language (ISL) as their primary mode of communication. ISL is an integral part of the lives of our deaf countrymen an women; it does more than transmit idea and encourage self-expression, it is grounded in their culture and their communities. Whereas in other countries, government are actively encouraging research in their respective singed languages, including prominent members of the sign language community in the process as well as providing support for interpreter training and access to higher education, our Indian government continues to suppress the use of ISL.
This is also to bring to your kind notice that it was because of the advocacy led by National Association of the Deaf that the Indian Sign Language Research & Training Centre was put in the 11th Five Year Plan. NAD has from the beginning, demanded that this Institute should be an independent autonomous body. This also announced establishment of such a Centre in his Budget Speech for 2010-11.
However, the MSJE ignored the input from Deaf Community and leaders and asked IGNOU to take over the project, which resulted in years of delays in implementing all the work proposed and approved by the governing and advisory committees. Additional transgressions include IGNOU’s liberal use of project funds despite not contributing to the project as well as reneging on their promise to provide land for buildings. Though there was much relief when MSJE finally took the ISLRTC out of IGNOU in 2013 in promise of establishing it as an autonomous body, that relief would be short-lived.
After dragging its feet for over 18 months, the Ministry is taking a step that is proving to be worse than putting ISLRTC under IGNOU. It has decided to put the project under Ali Yavar Jung of the National Institute of Hearing Handicapped (NIHH) in New Delhi. On the surface it sounds logical, however, given the history of NIHH, the move is analogous to asking a wolf to raise a lamb.
NIHH is strongly rooted in oral philosophy and all it has little more for ISL during its 32 years of existence than providing few ISL classes in few cities. We are sure that the entire budget allocated for developing ISL interpreters, training teachers in bilingual education of deaf children and involvement of Deaf people in making decision on their education and rehabilitation will be used in other areas.
This is unacceptable and should not be condoned. The project goals and outputs that were approved in 2007 by 11th Five Year Plan have yet to be actualized and it is imperative that the process involves the right people. For example, When a centre to support a spoken language – say Sindhi – is established, it is NOT managed by people who are not Sindhi themselves or do not speak Sindhi. ISLRTC must be managed by people who use ISL and support it.
Later in the day on 16th March, We held a press conference emphasizing the same demand at Indian Women’s press Corp. (Newspapers clipping enclosed).