49 Years old Hanumant U. Barbole is the president of of Ashamant foundation SOLAPUR Maharashtra is leading the Civil Rights Movement in Solapur, Maharashtra for the past 20 years.



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Disability Rights Activist: Madhu Singhal

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Madhu Singhal

Ms. Madhu Singhal is the founder of Mitra Jyothi which is a Trust serving people with disabilities in general and those with vision impairment in particular. She established Mitra Jyothi in the year 1990 with the intention of helping other women with vision impairment with the life experiences gained in her own life as she is visually impaired since birth. What started as a small organization in Jeevan Bhima Nagar is now an
organization that has helped thousands of people with disabilities and continues to help thousands more. She has held various positions like Chairperson of Women’s Committee of Asian Blind Union, Joint Secretary of the Daisy Forum of India, General Secretary for National Federation of the Blind, Karnataka Branch, Member of World Blind Union to name a few. She has represented the visually challenged the world over at
Fifth General Assembly under World Blind Union at Melbourne, Australia in 2000, Employment Seminar for The Blind at Brunei, Darussalam in 2000, General Assembly of Asian Blind Union at Bangkok, Thailand in 1998, Young Adult Leadership Exchange Programme conducted by Mobility International, USA at Oregon, Eugene, USA in 1997, A Seminar on “Information of the visually impaired” organized by Hong Kong Society
for the blind, Hong Kong in 1996 to name a few. Her literary works include Compilation of a collection of short stories and articles to inspire change in people with disability – ‘Badlav’ and Compi lation, Editing and Publishing of the First Visually Impaired Persons Directory to help bring together all visually impaired persons into one forum in 1991. She has also completed a research study on Domestic Violence and Emotional Abuse
of Blind Women in 5 countries in 2010 through Asian Blind Union. She has done a training in trekking for the visually impaired from the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling. Ms Madhu has received numerous awards like the IBN7 Bajaj Allianz Super Idols Award
in recognition of the extraordinary work in the field of education for persons with visual impairment in 2010.
To name a few, Zee Astitva Award by Zee Telefilms Ltd and Archana Trust Suburban in 2005, State Award by Directorate of Disabled Welfare and Senior Citizens in 2004, Shell Helen Keller award by National Center for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), at New Delhi in 2001, Lalchand Milapchand Dadha award in 2001 in Chennai by Mukti Foundation and the Neelam Khurshid Kang award by National Association for The Blind in 1996 at Mumbai. The most significant of them is the National Award for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities
that she was honored twice (2008 as Best Individual and 2018 as Role Model) . She also received the honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature by Karnataka State Women’s University, Vijayapura, on 3rd March 2015 in recognition of her significant contributions for the welfare of persons with disabilities by designing various programs.
Ms Madhu Singhal has brought light and life to thousands of people through Mitra Jyothi in the past
29 years by quietly carrying her vision of assisting the visually impaired and the differently abled to lead independent, dignified lives through education, counseling and technology – throughout India.

Professional Social Worker: Dr. Vijay Anand Ismavel

Professional Social Worker

Dr. Vijay Anand Ismavel

Dr. Vijay Anand Ismavel graduated from the Kilpauk Medical College in 1987. Two things mark his undergraduate training period -his academic brilliance and his decision to commit his life to Christ. The latter led to his realisation of the desperate need for doctors in remote parts of India.He spent three years at the Christian Fellowship Hospital, Oddanchatram, honing his clinical skills and learning about a life lived in total surrender to Christ. While doing his postgraduation in General Surgery, his paths crossed that of Dr. Ann Miriam,and he recognised in her a kindred spirit.

Dr. Ann too, having studied in Madurai Medical College, had discerned the call of God to serve as a medical missionary. They gotmarried and soon after decided to work in Makunda, Assam.Makunda Christian Leprosy and General Hospital was started by the Baptist Medical Missions, USA in 1951. This large campus, located at the crowded junction of Mizoram, Tripura and Assam was situated in a thickly populated, but remote area, with very few health facilities. By 1992, the hospital had closed down, leaving deserted buildings with very little usable equipment, no money, electricity or running water. The Emmanuel Hospital Association took over the Hospital after which doctors Vijay and Ann moved there in March 1993.

The conditions under which Dr. Vijay performed the first surgery -by lantern light-was a precursor of things to come for many years: a place falling off the map with its inaccessible location that was compounded during the rainy season; little or no means of communication; court cases and litigations. But then there came a small trickle of patients that turned to a torrent, for the presence of two devoted doctors meant reliable healthcare at affordable costs.In 1997, they joined CMC Vellore, where Dr. Vijayspecialised in Paediatric Surgery, while Dr Ann trained as an Anaesthetist. On their return to Makunda in the year 2000, they crystallised their vision for the Hospital and the community through their mission statement which was to provide high quality medical treatment at affordable costs to the people of North East India; to use the assets to improve the spiritual, social and economic lives of the wider community and to create and sustain a pool of trained Christian manpower to carry forward God’s work in the area. Humanly speaking, these were wishful thoughts. But God’s provisions and providence proved far greater than one could

imagine Initially, Dr. Vijay and Ann resolved staff issues, developed sustainable and poor-friendly protocols and built up the staff of the hospital. They then moved to developing departments and facilities in the Hospital and in the community.

This led to the establishment of an English medium school in 2004, where today over 900 children, including their daughters, Hannah andDeborah, receive quality education up to the higher secondary level. In an effort to reach other

underserved areas, a branch clinic was started in the militant infested area of Kamalacherra, in the Dhalai district of Tripura in 2005. Today, it is a growing hospital that sees over 15,000 patients a year, and provides much needed healthcare to a remote and largely tribal region. A Nursing School, initiated in 2006, has trained over 225 students, and has opened avenues in healthcare for young people from all

over the North-East. Today, the Makunda Christian Leprosy and General Hospital sees about 100,000 outpatients, 12,000 inpatients, performs 2,400 major surgeries and 5,000 deliveries each year. This heavy workload is shared by 4 consultants, 3

residents and 5 junior doctors. Clearly, everyone multitasks. The Community Health Department partners with the government and private sector in effecting change in the neighbouring areas. The large campus of the Hospital is a flourishing model of sustainable agriculture -the farms and fishing ponds provide food for the leprosy patients, the school and nursing school hostels. Financial stability has enabled the Hospital to develop partnerships with other institutions. A community College and the Makunda Nature Club, which is committed to documenting biodiversity and

wildlife conservation, were started in the past year. Future plans include similar health units in other states of North East India and possibly also in Myanmar, as well as an informal customized training programme for people interested in

serving in similar remote low-resource situations.

Makunda Christian Leprosy and General Hospital is now seen as a successful, self-

sustaining model of high quality health care that is focusedon the poor and marginalised; that enriches a community with educational and development opportunities, empowering people to help themselves. It is a model, which can be implemented in resource-poor situations in different parts of the world.

Behind this compelling story are the twopeople who willingly ‘stood in the gap’

, who have willingly said ‘yes’to a difficult life filled with hardship, hostility, sickness and uncertainty, all at the Master’sbidding in a life of selfless service and love in action. The story of Makunda is a powerful testament to their faith and commitment.

Dr Vijay Anand was bestrode the Paul Harrison Award by Christian Medical College, Vellore, 2016.

Professional Social Worker: Zelma Lazarus

Professional Social Worker

Zelma Lazarus

Zelma Lazarus is the Founder Director and Chief Executive Officer of Impact, a United Nations’ Inter-Agency Initiative, in association with the governments of each participating country. As General Manager Corporate Relations of Voltas Limited, a large Private Sector enterprise in India, she has had substantial experience in all aspects of public affairs. Her work experience is over 30 years.  Zelma was assigned by the House of Tata to the Government of India to establish the first Impact Foundation in India.  Based on Impact India’s experience, there are now 19 Impact Foundations in different countries worldwide.

Zelma was World President of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) for the year 1998; the first Asian Woman to head this prestigious organisation. IPRA constitutes the most genuinely international group of Public Relations Practitioners in 90 countries.  She is the Patron of Global Forum For Public Relations – an India International Association for Values and Ethics in Public Relations.

The basic prerequisite of Impact, which she leads successfully, is awareness. A nationwide communications package for India was therefore designed by her for a wide and diverse audience, from the slum dweller who is the potential beneficiary, to the industrialist who will financially support the programme.

Zelma was invited by the Government of India to become a member of the Planning Commissions Working Group on Health, Education and Communications for the preparation of the Seventh and Eighth Five-Year Plans for the country.

Zelma was commissioned by the Government of India to serve on the Film Censor Board.

Zelma has been on the world speakers’ circuit, delivering lectures at United Nations Headquarters, at various international seminars, universities and public platforms.   She has appeared on many live programmes on Television channels in many countries and several hundred articles have appeared about her in international dailies and journals including Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, Elle, The Times (London).

Zelma has completed a Senior Management Course on “Leadership” at the Ashridge Management College, U.K., and has edited several publications worldwide.

Zelma is a winner of several awards:

The United Nations Award for Excellence in Public Service for the “Lifeline Project”

The “Woman of the Year” Award from Zonta International

The Rotary Club Public Award for Leadership in creating India’s first mobile Hospital Train

The Distinguished Golden World Trophy for Excellence in Internal Communications from IPRA in London; IPRA’s Golden World Trophies for Excellence in Consumer Affairs and again, for Excellence in Public Service worldwide.

  The prestigious Silver Bell Trophy at the PR World Congress for “The most outstanding PR Campaign in the country”

The PR Society of India’s National Award for the Gandhi Book Project

The Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Good Corporate Citizen Award

Gold Medal at the EXPO 2000 in Hanover, Germany

Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Relations and Corporate Social Responsibilities by Association of Business Communicators of India (ABCI) in 2005.

Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Relations by Public Relations Society of India (PRSI) in 2007.

The Dr. K.R.Singh Memorial Life Time Achievement Award (PRCI Chanakya Awards 2014) by the Public Relations Council of India.

Lifetime Achievement Award by Exchange4Media at the India PR & Corporate Communications Awards 2014, and many more…

Throughout her career, Zelma Lazarus has been involved in the cause of the disabled. She has been the focal point in several unique projects to raise funds for the handicapped and was instrumental in bringing out the first Braille typewriter to be manufactured in India.

Lifeline Express is not Zelma’s but one of the worlds most talked about projects since it involved co-operation of various people, organisations and bureaucrats. The Lifeline Express is a special rake of five railway coaches specially adapted to serve as a mobile hospital, and thus able to reach anywhere on the railway map of India.

It is staffed by volunteers comprising some of the best surgeons and physicians of India, and is dedicated to tackling Polio, Cataract, Hearing Disability and Clefts. It is supported by advance teams that organise gather patients from surrounding areas before the arrival of the Mobile Hospital at its remote wayside stop.  The goodwill generated has astonished everyone. The Lifeline Express, with its mobility, and self-support capability, offers a unique opportunity to provide top quality medical services, free of cost, at any place in India.

This unique enterprise, with a commitment to offer relief to the suffering poor free of cost to fight preventable diseases, began its maiden voyage on its “Noble Venture”, in July 1991 from Victoria Station, Bombay (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai), with an enthusiastic send-off by its many well-wishers. Over the past several years it has served over a million disabled in rural India, restoring sight, hearing, movement, correction of facial deformities  and treatment for epilepsy and dental problems, and 200,000 medical persons from India and abroad including a large number of volunteers have donated their skills on the train, without charge.

Zelma would be the first to say that it took the combined efforts of a large number of people to make this possible. But everyone associated with this project agrees that the essential organizational skills and strength of purpose was provided by her. In every endeavour of this nature, there are difficulties on the way. Zelma Lazarus, though a modest individual, has that indispensable determination to ensure success. She has a unique capacity to make a difference in someone else’s life, and is blessed by many patients, located all over India, who have benefited.

The relevance of the Lifeline Express became evident immediately after the earthquake at Latur, Maharashtra a few years back, when it was diverted from its operations at Shankarapalli, about 200 kms. from the epicenter, and made the journey overnight, collecting supplies and relief volunteers, to supplement the sadly damaged and inadequate hospitals of Latur. Again, in 2001, it rushed to Gujarat to offer medical support to the earthquake stricken victims at the specific request of the Government of Gujarat, and stayed on for a period of six months as the only active hospital since the rest had crumbled in the earthquake.

In recognition of Impact India Foundation’s humanitarian work for the disabled poor of our country, the Government of India released a National Postage Stamp honouring the Lifeline Express and also a book titled “Creating Rainbows” – the Inspirational Journey of Impact India Foundation, on May 12, 2009, by His Excellency Shri S.C. Jamir, Governor of Maharashtra.  On this occasion a special message was received from the Prime Minister of India.

At the invitation of the Maharashtra Government, Impact India Foundation has launched a Community Health Initiative Project in the remote tribal areas of Thane district in the State of Maharashtra for the dramatic reduction in a number of disabilities affecting a population of one million persons.  The aim is to reduce or reverse the number of disabilities, by one half, through preventive and curative measures, bringing enormous benefits to the people.

June 20, 2017

Luminaries: Rupmani Chhetri

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Luminaries: Rupmani Chhetri



Sitting in the United Nations office in Lodhi Estate on a Monday afternoon, Rupmani Chhetri looked excited. She had just returned from the Ukraine visa office, and it had been a successful visit – she is currently in Ukraine, where she will be spending the next couple of years as part of the United Nations Volunteers(UNV) programme. Till date, around 1,800 Indians have worked as international volunteers, but what makes Rupmani’s case unique is the fact that she is the first differently-abled Indian to be selected for this role. “I have been associated with UN programmes for some time now and have taken part in events and conferences, but this is the first time I will be working as part of the UN family. I feel excited and greatly encouraged,” says Rupmani.

‘It has been a difficult journey’

The 30-year-old was born in Nepal and when she was six months old, her family moved to India – Darjeeling, to be precise. “There was little knowledge about hearing and speech impairment and my school did not realize that I needed sign language to communicate. They tried everything to make me utter words, and would even pull my lips so that I could make some noise. I was even beaten up by the teachers for using sign language,” she signs. “My parents tried everything to make me talk, and this included visits to priests and babas who would suggest totkas and mantras and convinced them that I would start speaking soon. But all this only made me sick,” adds Rupmani. She felt life would be better when she befriended a Delhi-based man, who also had hearing impairment. They ran away and came to the capital and got married. “But I soon realized that I was being discriminated against further,” she says. “My husband did not like it when I would interact with other people. He would want me to stay at home. My unhappiness grew and I realized that I had to get out of the relationship. It was not easy, but I went for a divorce. These were clearly some very difficult times in my life.” The divorce was tough, but it helped make her stronger, says Rupmani. Today, she is an executive member of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD).


India is not disabled-friendly’


“India is not at all disabled-friendly, and if you are a woman, your life is often tougher,” says Rupmani, adding, “For those who can’t hear or/and speak, communication is a big problem and very few people understand sign language. The situation is worse in rural areas. For instance, when girls with hearing and speech impairment start menstruating, there is often no proper communication, as a result of which many, for years, have no clue what is happening to them and live with a sense of guilt and shame. This is just one of the many problems we face. Atrocities committed against differently-abled persons hardly ever make it to the news. Communication is the key, we have to reach out to them.” Lack of interpreters in India According to the government census of 2011, there are 3 million deaf people in India. However, according to conservative, non-governmental estimates, there are 18 million deaf people in the country. In India, there are only 250 certified, trained interpreters for the Indian sign language.

“There are very few people who know sign language in India,” says Rupmani, and adds, “In case of hearing disability, one needs to be dependent on an interpreter at every stage. Just like people learn foreign languages, sign language should be learnt and taught extensively in India. To reach out to people across the globe, to understand them and communicate with them, it’s important to learn international sign language as well.” Recounting how she learnt international sign language, Rupmani says, “I took some classes and also learnt it through  social media, like YouTube and Facebook. Just like any other language, I started learning it faster when I started interacting with people from other countries.”

‘Help differently-abled kids believe in themselves’

Adding a piece of advice for parents with kids who are differently abled, she says, “Just empower them and help them believe in themselves. There is no need for sympathy.  They can achieve anything. Just remove the ‘im’ from impossible.”


Like most Indians, cricket and Bollywood are very much on Rupmani’s mind. Talking about her favourite stars, she says, “Not very difficult to guess – Sachin and Shah Rukh Khan!”



Courtesy Times of India