Updated: January 14, 2022 8:02:00 am
Fifty-one-year-old B S Bharathi Anna, a visually-impaired person, who was recently elected as CPI(M)’s Chengalpet district secretary, is the first differently-abled person to be elected to a top post in the political circles of Tamil Nadu.
In an interaction with indianexpress.com, Anna said political parties should provide opportunities to the differently-abled persons to change the prevailing perspective in society about them.
At 19, comrade Anna had joined the party’s student wing, Students Federation of India. His association simultaneously grew with other organisations, including the Democratic Youth Federation of India.
“In the last party district conference, the members told me that I should lead them. I was not very sure but their support provided me confidence. People think a visually-challenged person cannot actively work in politics because he won’t be able to understand the cadres’ body language or their actions but I don’t think that is an issue. It may be an issue for other parties but not for CPI(M) whose ideology is to fight for rights,” Anna said.
He added, “If I want to visit some place, I book app-based cabs and bikes. If I am visiting any villages for any meeting, our thozhargal (friends) will help me reach the place. The convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) says differently-abled people should be provided an opportunity in political leadership but it’s just on paper here.”
Anna believes that just like women are provided key positions in political parties, they should consider giving a chance to persons with disabilities. “They should be given an opportunity to contest in polls as well. If we need to uphold social justice and break this stereotypical approach towards differently-abled people, then political parties have to take such initiatives,” he said.
Anna added he wants the government to fully implement the five per cent reservation for differently-abled persons in private jobs as many would get employment and it will create a situation where they no longer need to depend on anyone for their livelihood.
Talking about his difficulties due to his disability and his political journey so far, the newly-elected district secretary said, “I had short-sightedness from the age of three but I completed my graduation in law from Ambedkar Government Law College in Chennai. During my college days, I got associated with several Left parties. I participated in several protests for the oppressed communities. Later, I served as the deputy secretary of Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front.”
He further said, “In 2014, I began to lose my eyesight completely. My social activities got affected. I had a psychological struggle in declaring that I am a visually-challenged person. I used to get anxious after accidentally colliding with someone while walking on the road. I lost relationships with many people because they would have smiled at me or waved at me but I wouldn’t have noticed it due to my problem. People thought I avoided them. I had issues reading books, I used to get headaches, I used to get tense and I wouldn’t be able to share these with my family. It was a very difficult period.”
Anna said in 2018, he confronted his fears and finally declared that he is visually-impaired. He then joined the Tamil Nadu Association For The Rights Of All Types Of Differently-Abled And Caregivers. Currently, he serves as the state vice-president of the association.
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