Volume 8 Issue 7 - April 01, 2011

Indian Sign Language Research Institute: M.S.J.E. endorses I.G.N.O.U.’s hijacking!

D.N.I.S. News Network, India: While the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (M.S.J.E.) and the pall bearers of deaf rights in the country slept halfway through the XIth Five Year Plan, it was left to the National Association of the Deaf (N.A.D.) to agitate and force the Government to announce the setting up of the Indian Sign Language Research Institute (I.S.L.R.I.) in the last Union Budget. One year later, the Indira Gandhi National Open University (I.G.N.O.U.) has hijacked this long standing dream of the deaf community. They are trying to get the necessary funding from M.S.J.E. to set up this Institute (as a small Centre!) under their purview. This goes absolutely against the mandate of the XIth Plan and the aspiration of the deaf community to have an autonomous, independent body to be developed as a Centre of Excellence.

The argument being given is that I.G.N.O.U. will give its land for the Institute and handle it for the first 5 years. Seems more like a clandestine way of wresting control over the Institute! The question now is why would M.S.J.E. want to depend on I.G.N.O.U.? How were other National Institutes set up? Why cant M.S.J.E. set it up as an independent organisation in another location, even a rented accommodation, till the time it gets a land allocated and funds sanctioned?

A.S. Narayanan, Secretary N.A.D. and Zorin Singha, President N.A.D. met Secretary, M.S.J.E., K.M. Acharya on March 22 to discuss these issue. Justifying the decision to set up I.S.L.R.I. in I.G.N.O.U., Acharya said that M.S.J.E. is not happy with the way the 8 National Institutes (N.I.s) are functioning and therefore does not want to replicate that model. In addition to that, it is impossible to get land in Delhi at the moment and it will take at least 2 years to get a plot. They did not want to set up the Institute in a Ranchi or an Aizawl or a Nagpur.

He added that I.G.N.O.U. already has a National Centre for Disability and they are running an international course on Sign Language in collaboration with the University of Central Lancashire. The other advantage of having the Centre in I.G.N.O.U. is that a 5 acre plot will be given to the Centre, Acharya added.

To answer N.A.D.s worry over the Institutes autonomy, Acharya assured that the Centre will be autonomous. It will have its own Director, professors, hardware/software, etc. and there will be two bodies governing the Centre with adequate representation from the deaf community.

Acharya added that after 3 years, there will be a review of the situation and if needed, they will look for land outside and transfer the Centre as a N.I. By then, hopefully, the present N.I.s will also be restructured.

However, this still does not rest fears that I.S.L.R.I. will be far from the Centre of Excellence as envisaged in the XIth Plan. Also, since it has already been more than a year since it was announced, there is no logical reason as to why M.S.J.E. cannot wait for another year to acquire land and setup the Institute as a truly autonomous body. And what if after 3 years there is a need to move the Institute out of I.G.N.O.U.? Wont getting the basics right from the beginning save M.S.J.E. a lot of problems than to face them 3 years down the line?

With so many unanswered questions, I.S.L.R.I. seems to be stuck in a limbo, at least for the time being.

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