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Braille tricolour flutters for the blind

Just ahead of Republic Day, the National Flag has been made accessible to the country’s 12 million visually impaired citizens, with a tactile version created by an eye hospital

Every time the National Flag flutters, 12 million people are left out. These are the visually impaired citizens of India who have been unable to see the tricolour, till now. The National Flag is finally accessible to the blind with a tactile Braille version that has been created by the Bhojraj Chanrai Sankara Eye Care Hospital, Mumbai and the Sankara Eye Care Institutions.This tactile flag is currently kept at the National Association for the Blind (NAB) office in Worli in the city.

Worldwide, only the United States and the United Kingdom are known to have national flags that are accessible to the blind. India joined them on January 19 when its tactile tricolour was unveiled by Dr RV Ramani, founder and managing trustee of the Sankara Eye Care Institution, on the 63rd Foundation Day of the National Association for the Blind (NAB), in Mumbai. The city has the highest concentration of visually impaired people in our country.

The flag has been conceptualised and created by Sankara Eye Hospital, in association with the development organization, Sightsavers. The three colours of the flag are depicted through different textures. The Ashoka Chakra with its 24 spokes, at the centre of the flag, is raised so the blind can feel its contours. The colours and features of the flag are explained in Braille alongside the flag.

COMING ALIVE: The visually challenged touch the tactile flag
Coming alive: The visually challenged touch the tactile flag

When the flag was launched, the blind children attending the NAB Foundation Day function were the first to “see” the Braille tricolour. Dr Ramani said, “It is unfortunate that something as important as the National Flag is inaccessible to the blind. We focus on preventive eye care for children through our paediatric programme Nanna Kannu, and at the same time we believe that the blind should get equal access to rights and services as their sighted counterparts. This tactile flag is one of the steps towards this.”

Sandesh Rane, CEO of the Malad-based Bhojraj Chanrai Sankara Eye Hospital, said, “The Indian National Flag was designed as a symbol of freedom. Now the blind too can experience this freedom.”

Walk ‘n’ Talk with history
Tonight, as the sun has called it a day and the moon sparkles like an orb in Mumbai’s smog-filled sky, a company called travel-logs will hold a two-hour session where walkers can relive India’s journey to becoming a democratic Republic. Says Dhiresh Sharma, Chief Explorer, “It is celebrating India on the eve of January 26.

HISTORICAL HOTFOOTING: The Gaothan saga Matharpakady walk
Historical hotfooting: The Gaothan saga Matharpakady walk

We have different kinds of walks, with different themes, but this is the first time that we are doing a Republic Day specific walk. On Saturday, January 25, people are going to meet at the Jehangir Art Gallery at 9.30 pm, after which we will walk to the Kala Ghoda Plaza (towards Lions Gate). There are a couple of speakers like history graduate and researcher Nitika Khanna and archaeologist and historian Kurush Dalal, who will be speaking about the city including the journey from 1947 (India’s Independence) to 1950, when India became a Republic. The two-hour session will be interactive.”
Details: Rate: Rs 750 per person
Duration: 2 hours
Meeting Point: Jehangir Art Gallery
Registration: Call: +91 8425830004/+91 8425830006 or email: dhiresh.sharma@travel-logs.co.in or nitika.khanna@travel-logs.in.

Governor’s Schedule 
9.15 am: Governor of Maharashtra K Sankaranarayanan will unfurl the National Flag and inspect the parade at the State function at Marine Drive on Sunday, January 26.

MARCH MOVES: Republic Day practice at Marine Drive
March moves: Republic Day practice at Marine Drive

5.30 pm: Governor K Sankaranarayanan and Radha Sankaranarayanan will host ‘At home’, a customary Republic Day Reception for invitees on the lawns of Raj Bhavan, Mumbai.

Song Sung True
On January 27, at 6.30 pm, the Mahalaxmi racecourse will host the 51st anniversary of the song, ‘Ae Mere Vatan Ke Logon’. The song was first performed live on January 27, 1963 by Lata Mangeshkar in New Delhi. Now, a Shreshta Bharat Divas has been conceived for the day. On Monday, over 1 lakh persons are expected to join Lata Mangeshkar in singing ‘Ae Mere Vatan Ke Logon’ in the presence of soldiers, marytrs’ family members and armed forces personnel. Param Veer Chakra winners will be felicitated along with other soldiers.  

Highlights
>> A tactile tricolour for the blind
>> For the first time, the blind can ‘see’ the flag in their own special way
>> The three colours of the flag - saffron, white and green are represented through different textures. 
>> The Ashok Chakra with its 24 spokes has been raised so that the blind can feel its spokes.
>> The colours and features of this flag are featured in Braille alongside it. 
>>  Worldwide, only the United States and United Kingdom are known to have national flags accessible to the blind.

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