Sunday, January 26, 2014

A floral wreath on Government’s inability to protect rights of hearing impaired on Republic Day

In spectacular display of its might, India today celebrated its 65th Republic Day portraying its rich culture, achievements in diverse fields and the military prowess at the parade at Rajpath. Its sixty-four years, after we became a Republic but Government of India has never ever relayed Republic day parade with sign language interpretation for the millions of hearing impaired in World’s largest democracy.

After the persistent advocacy by Disabled Rights Group (DRG) and National Association of the Deaf (NAD), Ministry of Information & Broadcasting finally agreed to have Sign Language interpretation on DD News, DD Bharti and DD Urdu. The activists demanded that it should also be available on DD National, which is the main producer of the coverage and from which ALL channels (national/international/web based) take the feed.

DD National, the flagship channel of Doordarshan, the Indian public service broadcasting corporation, and the most widely available terrestrial television channel in India. Major events like Republic Day Parade, Independence Day Celebrations, National Award Presentation ceremonies, President and Prime Minister’s addresses to the Nation, President’s address to the joint session of Parliament, important Parliamentary debates, Railway and General Budget presentations, Question Hour in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Election results and analysis, swearing-in ceremonies, President and Prime Minister’s visits abroad and visits of important foreign dignitaries to India are covered live on DD National.

Unfortunately, they did not agree. But when DRG & NAD persisted and hundreds came out on the streets, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting finally relented and issued an advisory for all private channels to take the feed from DD News, with the Sign Language interpretation.

Today’s R-day parade showcased India's 'unity in diversity'. However, the same cannot be said of IB Ministry. One of the objectives of the Prasar Bharti is to safeguard the citizen’s right to be informed freely. Let’s see how our media fared this day for millions of hearing impaired citizens in India.

DD News helped millions of disabled to gather accessible coverage with two sign language interpreters. DD Urdu and DD Bharti followed. DD National, Loksabha TV and Rajyasabha TV however, relayed R-day parade WITHOUT interpreter.

The TV Today Network (of India Today group) is one of India's leading English-Hindi news television networks along with Network 18 and NDTV. 

TV Today includes Aaj Tak (Hindi), Headlines Today (English), Tez (Hindi), and Dilli Aaj Tak (Hindi) news channel. Only Headlines Today relayed accessible feed. Aaj Tak boasts of ‘सबसे तेज़’ and best news channel for 13 successive years faltered miserably. Similarly, Aajjtak Tez and Dilli Aajtak did not relayed accessible feed.

NDTV rose to the occasion with both NDTV India (Hindi) and NDTV 24x7 (English) relaying accessible feed. The later rightly has an apt slogan-Fight for change, You’ve got a friend.

Times Now, the first news channel in India to be launched on mobile screens has a slogan-Always with the news. They were rightly with the disabled community as they relayed feed from DD News rather DD National.

Samay was another winner who relayed continuous coverage with sign-language. 

There were some who corrected their mistake in time and switched to feed from DD News after initially covering DD National’s inaccessible feed. IBN7 was launched on Independence Day 2006 with tag lines खबर हर कीमत पर- बेबाक, बेख़ौफ़ . CNN IBN’s tag line is- whatever it takes. Both of these channel partnered yesterday in a disability campaign ‘Veer’. 24 hours were still not over when these two relayed inaccessible feed. However, they quickly, changed the feed to DD News in the afternoon. News X (News without noise) and News 24 frequently switched between accessible and inaccessible feed for reasons beat known to them.

Zee news failed to be on the side of disabled viewers. Others who ignored disabled were ABP News (आप को रखें आगे), India News (देश की धड़कन ), India TV (Voice of public- आप की आवाज), News Nation, and Channel One.

Earlier, the Disabled Rights Group convenor, Javed Abidi met with the officials of the Defence Ministry, the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. He 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 in 'The Hindu' 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.

Today, on India’s 65th Republic Day, I pay floral wreath on Government’s inability to protect the rights of people with hearing impairment. I salute DD News, NDTV group, Times NOW, Headlines Today, and Samay for giving continuous live feed of accessible telecast. Other TV channels are requested to shy away from fancy taglines and act on ground zero.

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