Maharashtra government promises Information Cell for deaf community
Over the last year the deaf community in Maharashtra has been vocal and assertive in their demands for better education facilities in schools and college and a more responsive attitude towards the issues they face. The newly elected Maharashtra government has promised to listen and announced a series of measures. Among them is the formation of an Information Cell for the deaf community, the first such anywhere in India.
At eight lakh, Maharashtra has a sizeable deaf population and yet there is not one junior or senior college for the community. There are just three government-runs schools for the deaf community in the state. For years community leaders have been appealing to the state government to look into their demands. The lack of response saw many angry protests last year.
High level meeting with deaf leaders in Maharashtra
Those appeals seem to have finally touched a chord with the Maharashtra government. At a meeting at the state government headquarters in Mumbai in Mantralaya, Dhananjay Munde, Minister for Social Justice and Special Assistance, promised to look into the issues raised by the State Level Association of the Deaf (SLAD).
Among the chief announcements was the setting up of a separate information room in the ministry to address the issues faced by the state’s deaf population. The room will be manned by sign language experts who will work with the government to take decisions.
A decision has also been made to appoint sign language experts for deaf students in schools and colleges. We will make efforts to improve the facilities and quality of teaching in deaf schools. We will also look into the training of deaf students in ITI along with the Department of Technical Education. – Dhananjay Munde, Minister for Social Justice and Special Assistance, Maharashtra government
Many promises made to address concerns of deaf community
Munde was also positive about the launch of a degree course in Indian Sign Language. “We will communicate our decisions to the deaf schools in the state as well as organisations working for the deaf”. Among the other commitments made was to appoint trained teachers in deaf schools.
The commitment to improve educational facilities is much needed said, Aman Sharma, Co-founder, Training and Educational Centre for Hearing impaired. This Mumbai-based NGO is dedicated towards offering superior quality higher education to deaf children.
“I believe there’s a need to standardised the school curriculum and methods across the school education for these children. I am sure with this step, a focus can be driven towards the education of deaf children”, says Aman. The Information Cell with sign language experts, he believes, would be of great help. “It can help to bridge the communication gap at present with the hearing and deaf population”. One immediate step that the government could take could be curriculum standardisation with the employability skills. “This will be one important change in the education for deaf children”.
Regarding the government announcement, Pradeep More, General Secretary, SLAD, struck a note of cautious optimism.
“I am happy with the decision the minister has taken regarding our demands. The decision to start an informaion cell in the state is very important for the deaf community and we are proud that Maharashtra is the first state in India to do so”. Pradeep hopes that the promises made will translate into action. “Passing orders is one thing, implementation is another issue altogether. Given all our experiences with the previous government over six years we have learned to be careful and not raise our expectations. We are waiting for the government to start acting on implementing our demands”.