Blind, but not without hope

Blind, but not without hope

Revolution: Siddaraju(centre) at a programme at National Federation of the Blind, in Mysore. pics by special arrangement

In what can be an example for other specially abled persons, a visually impaired person is showing way for hundreds of blind persons, by educating, motivating, helping them hone personality skills and providing vocational training to specially abled persons in the city.

Siddaraju, who is by blind by birth, stands for confidence, courage, motivation, and proves that despite limitations, one can also lead peaceful and happy life just the way as others do, without seeking sympathy in the society.

Brought up in a family where agriculture was the main occupation, Siddaraju is the son of Nanjundaiah and Mahadevamma couple at Hanumananpura, Doddakavalande hobli in Nanjangud taluk. From such humble roots, Siddaraju rose to the level of heading the Mysore unit of National Federation of Blind.

The hardship he faced along the way was no lesser than fighting a war. His education from primary classes to under-graduation was an achievement of sorts. He was just 10-year-old when his mother admitted him at Government School for Blind in Tilak Nagar.
Right from student days, he fought against injustice, supply of poor quality food, negligence of authorities in maintaining good hygiene and sanitation at  school and ill treatment meted out to his fellow classmates and other specially abled persons.

By the time he completed high school education, Siddaraju emerged as a successful leader and even he formed Louie Braille Blind Students Association in Mysore, an unregistered student body to fight for the issues of visually challenged and other specially abled persons. Siddaraju grew stronger when he was denied admission by Government authorities to stay in a hostel to complete his PU Education. The authorities denied giving admission to blind students as they were considered to be a liability.
However, Siddaraju successfully got admitted at Government Hostel for Boys at Kuvempunagar with special recommendation from the then Education Minister H Vishwanath. He also faced the same humiliation when he joined degree in prestigious Maharaja College of the City.

There was a time when a professor avoided him from joining an event as having Siddaraju was a liability, with someone being entrusted with the responsibility of accompanying him back and forth. However, he was allowed to participate after the protest and brought laurels to the college by winning prizes in the cultural competitions.
He struggled hard and was left to bear with more humiliation while he tried to find a job after he left the college.

Stage set for NFB

Realising the hardship, turmoil, injustice, lack of employment opportunities which made lives much more difficult for blind persons and other disabled in the society, Siddaraju organised some more of his friends and was successful in establishing the Mysore unit of National Federation of the Blind in the year 2005 at Moksha Marga in Siddarathanagar in Mysore.

Siddaraju is the co- coordinator of this unit after serving as its founder president for some time. As many as more than 120 visually challenged persons and specially abled have been rehabilitated from this unit so far. Many of them have got government jobs, turned lecturers, music teachers, excelled in sports and cultural competitions and are working in various fields after being trained here. Some are even receiving financial aid from the federation.

 At present, about 27 blind persons are staying in the hostel run by the Federation at Siddarathanagar. Most of them studying at different colleges in the city and hail from distant places such as from Gulbarga, Belgaum, Bellary, Tumkur, Chamarajanagar, Hassan, Haveri and other parts of the state. The National Federation for Blinds is a reputed non- governmental organisation working since 1970 with New Delhi as its head quarter. It receives assistance from donors, various international bodies and Government of India. Supreme Court Advocate Santosh Kumar Rumta, who is also blind by birth, is its secretary. There are 50 units in the nation including Mysore besides 50,000 members and 20,000 active members.

This Federation promotes higher education, capacity building, personality development, providing awareness about Disabilities Act and rights of people with special abilities, imparting skill based training etc. This apart, the Federation also prints and distributes Braille literature. The Federation offers ` 9000 scholarship for college students annually, sanctions interest free loans for visually impaired persons to set up their business and hands out housing loans for its members, who are employed. It accepts donations in the form of vegetables, bed sheets, utensils and other materials required by blind persons from donors.

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