We were invited to the first foundation day of Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC) on 4th October 2012. The Director I/C of ISLRTC, Prof. A.K. Singh welcomed the paneled guests i.e., Shri Gopi Nath Pradhan, Vice-Chancellor of IGNOU, Dr. Madan Vasishta, Chief Advisor of ISLRTC, Shri A.S. Narayanan, Secretary of National Association of the Deaf (NAD), Shri Sibaji Panda, Lecturer of BAASLS and Dr. Hemlata, Coordinator of BAASLS and the friends of the Deaf Community and students. He invited the guests and two students to light the lamp to start the function.
Before the Director asked Shri Pradhan to address the audience, he asked Dr. Vasishta and Shri Pradhan to present a laptop to a student of BAASLS whom the faculty found hard working, sincere, determined and with a bright future. Shri Pradhan thanked everyone for taking time out and being a part of ISLRTC’s first year of completion. Soon, the advertisement for posts at ISLRTC will be out and we will have experienced staff and faculty along with the sanction by the Ministry of the construction of the ISLRTC building. The dreams of the deaf community will be coming to life and taking shape.
Prof. Singh then invited Shri Narayanan to share his journey. He journeyed through the time when ISLRTC was only a seed of thought, a dream. Many years ago, NAD had started to demand from the Government for a research and training centre of Indian Sign Language. NAD went to various offices of MSJE and MHRD and met with all the high officials in the Planning Commission (PC) to explain the needs of the Deaf community and they were given promises that ‘something will be done’ but no action had been taken. Finally, the 11th Five-Year Plan had an entire chapter on disability. That Plan mandated the setting up of a Sign Language Research and Training Centre, a National Captioning Centre, at least one residential school up to class XII for deaf students in every state and one degree college in every zone, among other things. But, more than two years after the Plan came into force and the implementation had been zero.
Then, NAD demonstrated against this delay. The Deputy Chairman of PC talked to the PM and later met with Shri Mukul Wasnik, Minister of SJ&E, who started the process which led to the final establishment of ISLRTC on 4th October 2011. He couldn’t believe that one year had passed. ISLRTC was and is the result of the hardwork of thousands of deaf people. All of them came out in the streets to demand for the right to use their mother tongue. NAD is thankful to the Government for establishing ISLRTC last year. This is only a beginning. Soon, ISLRTC branches will be all over India. ISL classes will be in towns and villages and all the schools will use ISL for deaf students. All teachers of deaf students will use ISL. This will make communication and learning by deaf children easier. This will also lead to more interpreters. We need 4 lakh interpreters but have only 200 now. New training programmes will help produce quality and proficient interpreters. It will take time but one day, we will have enough qualified interpreters to meet our need. We will have excellent professors and researchers who will research on ISL. We will know more about our language. We must work together to make sure our rights are preserved. ISLRTC has done some good work in the last year and we hope that it does much more in the coming years. The Deaf community must constantly provide its support to ISLRTC.
Prof. Singh said that never had he ever thought that he would be a part of the Deaf community in any way and now he is and he has never enjoyed more than being a part of this community. This vision will be real soon with the constant guidance of Dr. Vasishta and Shri Narayanan, people who talk less but work a lot unlike the professors who talk a lot but work less.
Dr. Madan Vashista mentioned that if it weren't for the advocacy of National Association of the Deaf, we wouldn't even be having ISLRTC in the first place. Without ISLRTC, we cannot teach ISL or even train the hearing teachers of deaf schools or having a state level workshop of sign language interpreters or educate parents about the needs of a deaf child and link them to organisations that can assist in the child's upbringing.
Shri Sibaji Panda shared the same views as Dr. Vashista. He requested the deaf community to constantly give its support to NAD who truly fights for the needs of the Deaf community and is extremely proactive in its work. As for ISLRTC, since it has taken BAASLS under its wings, we hope to be able to reach the students that are unreachable using IGNOU's networks and BAASLS can have more students in the coming years.
The ceremony ended with students dance performances, skits and jokes showing the culture of the Deaf community.