Manjunath V., Srinivas Murthy and Ashok. They are all in their early 20s, undergraduate and visually challenged. They are the three visually challenged people to anchor news bulletins in the history of Indian television. They anchored Kannada news on Doordarshan Kendra’s regional Channel Chandana in Bangalore Jan 4, the second birth centenary of Louis Braille, founder of the Braille script.
The audience response has been so enthusiastic that Chandana channel has decided to soon start a 10-minute Kannada news bulletin once a month to be exclusively read by visually challenged people.
Manjunath, blind from birth and a second year student of bachelor of arts at St Joseph Arts and Science college, Bangalore, said: “I am very happy to have read news on TV. As a visually challenged person, I have faced many difficulties and stigmas in my life. The entire act of anchoring a news program was quite empowering. I am looking forward to anchoring more news bulletins in the coming months.”
Murthy, a first year of Bachelor of Arts student at the Vijayanagar first grade government college, Bangalore, too is elated by his new popularity.
“Now everybody in my college recognizes me and asks for my autograph. I feel good that I too could read news like any other normal person,” smiled Srinivas, who is also blind from birth.
Ashok, a first year student of Bachelor of Arts at St Joseph Arts and Science college, Bangalore, was happy that he made quite an impact by reading news on a leading television channel.
“I feel great that through three of us the issues relating to visually challenged people are getting noticed. We’re no less than others and need empathy and not sympathy to succeed in life,” said Ashok, who is also blind from birth.
Officials of the TV channel said that the audience response to these three news anchors has been very encouraging.
“We were amazed to see the reaction of the audience. Since Jan 4 we have been flooded with congratulatory messages for taking such a huge step in encouraging visually challenged people. Within two months we will start a special monthly news bulletin to be anchored by the three visually challenged newsreaders,” Rajendra Katti, programme executive of Bangalore Doordarshan, told IANS.
“They have become heroes for their community and people are calling us to find out more about all three of them. They are very good in their job and we hope that the three will continue doing great work in the coming months as news anchors,” added Katti.
The three read news in all the six bulletins telecast on the channel at 7.45 a.m., 11.00 a.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Jan 4, along with regular news anchors Prabha Karanjee and D. Rajeshwari.
Asked why he initiated this experiment, Mahesh Joshi, senior director of the Doordarshan Kendra here, said the three of them are very talented and had the potential to be good news anchors.
“I never doubted their talent. They are as good and talented as any other normal news reader. That is why I have chosen them. It was a kind of tribute to Louis Braille on his second birth centenary,” Joshi said.
Joshi trained the three of them every day for nearly 30 minutes for almost one month in the art of news reading and anchoring.
According to People with Disabilities in India: From Commitments to Outcomes the latest report prepared by the World Bank in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the country has 60 million disabled people.
Out of them 10 percent are hearing and speech impaired, whereas 48 percent are visually impaired, followed by 28 percent movement impaired and 14 percent mentally disabled. Louis Braille was the inventor of Braille, a world wide system used by visually impaired people for reading and writing. Braille is read by passing the fingers over characters made up on an arrangement of one to six embossed points. Braille has been adapted to many languages around the world.