Beyond Money
Sound Vision for Blind Students

Savita Narayan writes about an NGO creating audio books for the visually-impaired

In 1998, when Veena Sahasrabuddhe moved to Nashik, little did she know how events would move her life in an unforeseen direction. As a student, Veena had excelled in extra-curricular activities while maintaining high academic standards but could not complete her education. Later, she concentrated on her family. As her sons and husband got busier with their studies and career, a sense of frustration engulfed her.

One morning, Veena was at a busy traffic junction. Nearby stood a visually impaired man requesting passers-by, without success, for assistance in safely crossing the road. Veena asked if he would accept her help instead. With the simple, humane gesture of guiding him across, Veena helped herself overcome the self-doubt that had begun to mar her life.

“That day, God heard me,” Veena says. “The man was a teacher at a school for the visually impaired, two doors away from my house. His self-confidence, in spite of his lack of sight, impressed me.” As they walked to the school, Veena learnt what it was like for the visually impaired to be in a learning environment as a teacher or a student with different needs—readers and writers are essential here. Veena felt an opportunity to help others beckoning her. “Forget any light in their lives, these children could not even reach the candle. As the wise say, everyone needs a guru,” she says. “That teacher was my guru. He guided me completely in what was a very new field to me.” Truly an instance of cometh the hour, cometh the man.

Today, Veena runs the Third Eye Association with her aseem parivar (boundless family) of friends and well-wishers. The team comprises 50 people.

Government-run schools for the blind, with books in Braille, are only up to the 10th Std. For students wanting to pursue higher studies, accessing textbooks is a very real hurdle. Third Eye offers recordings of any textbook prescribed by any university and for all competitive exams.

Veena began with a recording of a textbook on an audio cassette for a girl in high school. By 2003-04, the demand was so high that Veena was reading and recording for 10 hours everyday.

A turning point in her endeavours was a visit by noted Marathi author, Praveen Dawane, on 27 December 2004. He wrote about her work in his column in the daily Sakal. The result was telephone calls from all over Maharashtra with enquiries, recognition and help. Well-known Marathi authors gave permission for the recording of their books.

Funding began with a donation from one Mr Pendse in 2004 which facilitated the purchase of a dubbing machine to record a master cassette to make copies. The Rotary Club donated a tape-recorder. The sponsorship of an adjoining flat offered the much-needed space for more equipment and helpers.

Blank audio cassettes are sourced in bulk. Veena has eight computers which are audio-operated, a Braille printer and an audio book-reader on which 60 hours of recordings can be loaded. Saksham Nagpur, an RSS project, had donated CDs. Next on the wish-list is the screen reader Jaws. All this without ever having charged a rupee from any student!

Third Eye has concentrated on academic tomes so far. Veena now wants to record fiction and poetry to widen students’ horizons.

Third Eye’s beneficiaries include Shrirang Sahasrabuddhe of Infosys, a rank-holder now doing his PhD; state-level chess player Sonali Borse; officers working for various banks; first rank-holder in BEd (normal) Maharashtra and the rank-holder for Nashik in the State Board 12th Std exams. 

The Lions Club awarded Veena Sahasrabuddhe the Helen Keller Award in 2009 for her services for the visually impaired.

According to Indian thought, ‘opening the third eye’ means receiving knowledge. Third Eye Association is the gateway for visually impaired students to encounter learning and experience a fuller life.

Third Eye Association
VS Sahasrabuddhe
5, Nisarga-Prakash,
Near KJ Mehta High School
Nashik 422 101
Tel: 0253 2468867; 09890251009
Email:
[email protected]

User

Country adds 20 million mobile users in March

The wireless subscriber base has increased by 3.6% from its February user base of 564.02 million

With the addition of 20 million new users in March, the highest ever this year, the mobile subscriber base in the country has jumped to 584.32 million customers, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said today, reports PTI.

The wireless subscriber base increased by 3.6% from its February user base of 564.02 million, TRAI said in a statement.

With this addition, the total number of telephone subscribers (wireless and wire-line) in India increased to 621.28 million at the end of March 2010, from 600.98 million in February 2010.

The number of users in the wire-line segment remained unchanged at 36.96 million, as there was no net addition to fixed line subscriptions, which have been witnessed negative to flat growth for quite sometime now.

With operators slashing tariffs further and new telecom players offering innovative schemes, the total telecom subscriber base registered a growth of 3.38% in March.

The maximum new additions for operators came from the ‘Circle B’ and ‘C’ cities, indicating that markets in the metros are saturating.

With this, the overall tele-density in India has touched 52.74, which indicates that 53 out of every 100 people in India own a telephone connection (wireless or wire-line). The wireless tele-density stands at 49.60.

In the wireless segment, Vodafone was able to add the maximum number of new users to its network, followed by Reliance Communications and Bharti Airtel.

Vodafone trumped the country’s largest operator, Bharti Airtel, by adding 3.6 million subscribers in March, taking its total number of users to 100 million. In comparison, Bharti Airtel added 3 million users to expand its subscriber base to 127.6 million, data showed.

However, Bharti Airtel remained the leader with a 21.84% share of the market at the end of March, followed by Reliance Communications with a 17.53% share and Vodafone with a 17.26% share, TRAI said.

While the subscriber base in the wireless segment increased from 564.02 million in February, the number of users in the wire-line segment remained unchanged at 36.96 million, the statement added.

In the wire-line segment, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd remained the biggest player, holding a 75.31% market share as on 31 March 2010, followed by State-run MTNL.

The broadband subscriber base increased from 8.59 million in February to 8.75 million in March 2010, a growth of around 2%.
 

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Duty hike on iron ore lumps

Duties on iron ore fines to remain unchanged; hike aimed at increasing availability of the mineral in the domestic market

Commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma today said that there will be a minor increase in the export duty on iron ore lumps to discourage shipments, though duties on iron ore fines will remain unchanged, reports PTI.

“There will be no increase in the export duty on iron ore fines, but there will be a marginal increase in the export duty on lumps, which we are in agreement (with other ministries),” Mr Sharma told reporters.

Indian steel makers use iron ore lumps to produce steel. Iron ore fines are primarily exported to countries like China.

The duty hike on iron ore lumps will increase availability of this mineral in the domestic market. At present, iron ore is priced in the range of $120-$160 per tonne, up 90% from a year ago, putting input cost pressure on steel companies.

The government at present levies an export duty of 10% on iron ore lumps and 5% on iron ore fines.

Sources said that the export duty on iron ore lumps could go up by another 5%, but government officials would not confirm this.

Last week, senior officials from the steel, mines, commerce and finance ministries discussed the issue of raising the export duty on these different types of iron ore.

Mr Sharma further said mining itself is an industry which is carried out in backward and tribal regions of the country. The industry provides jobs to millions of people.

“So, before taking any decision on increasing export duty, we should take a wholesome view,” he added.

The steel ministry had last month written to prime minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, seeking a two-fold hike in the present duty structure. The ministry wants to discourage outward dispatches as it is of the view that the vital raw material for steel making should be retained for domestic consumption.

In 2008-09, iron ore exports amounted to 106 million tonnes, about 85% of which were fines.
 

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