During Diwali, candle-making is at its peak.We work overtime two months in advance and make as much candles as possible, says 26-year-old Mahesh Singh who is learning candle-making under multi-skill programme at Delhi’s Blind Relief Association.
The candles and diyas made by visually challenged workers at the Delhi NGO sell like hot cakes during Diwali Bazaar, one of the city’s most popular festival markets.
Paper products made by them are also a rage at this annual fare. “These paper bags are strong and could not be torn easily besides it’s environment-friendly too. Unlike polythene, animals would not eat it even if it is disposed,” says Saddam Hussain who is learning to make paper bags and is part of NGO’s storytelling programme.
Set up in 1944, the Delhi NGO is empowering the visually challenged through education, vocational training and rehabilitation.
The Association runs a school with a strength of 210 such kids, and follows the CBSE curriculum.
“Many of these kids have gone on to lead successful professional lives. Some of them have become bankers, engineers and government officers but there are many visually challenged people across different age groups who don’t get the opportunity of an education,” said KC Pande, honorary executive secretary at the NGO.
For such people, we have multi-skill training programme under which they are trained to make candles, paper products, stitching. If they want to make soap, or weaving in chair and also train them in giving massages.
For Laadli Bano, who has come all the way from UP’s Pratapgarh to Delhi, the NGO is a blessing in disguise. “I never studied and was totally unaware that there is a school for blind people. Here I have learnt Braille , computer and English speaking. I want to become a computer teacher in the future and want to be self-reliant,” she said.
The NGO also has a placement cell that helps the trainee get jobs in their respective fields. However, Pandey laments the disinterest of private sector in providing jobs to visually challenged people. “In private sector there is a widespread perception that keeping a visually-challenged person is a liability. This is one thing that the society needs to understand. The person should be judged by his talent and skills not by his blindness,he said.
As a society there’s much to learn, he feels. “When we make tactile path (for blind people), no one bothers about where it goes whether it ends at a ditch or there is a board on its course. We make disable-friendly bus stands but the bus stops two metre ahead of it and then the platform is so high; leave visually challenged people, even a senior citizen would find it difficult to board such a bus”, he says. However, he remains hopeful, because at least these issues are being discussed, and people who are supposed to benefit from this are coming out to express their views.