CHENNAI: Perhaps for the first time, a visually impaired person has been elected to lead a political party at the district level in Tamil Nadu. BS Bharathi Anna (51), a CPM member and a lawyer, who had lost his vision totally in 2017 due to eye myopia, was elected as the CPM's Chengalpattu district committee secretary on Tuesday.
"In the CPM, an ordinary worker can move to the leadership of the party. A socially oppressed person too can reach the top position. Now, I am proud that a visually challenged person too can make it to the leadership," Anna told The New Indian Express.
Born in Pakkam in 1971, Anna had high myopia at a very young age. When he was studying in the third standard his eyesight was at minus 18 and though he used to sit on the first bench, it was very difficult for him to see the blackboard.
After much effort, he completed his school education and got his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from AM Jain College in Chennai. Later, he received his Bachelor of Law degree from Dr Ambedkar Law College.
When he was a student, Anna joined the Students Federation of India in 1989 and later, the Democratic Youth Federation of India. Later, he had also worked with Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front as its vice president. After complete blindness affected him, he reduced my field activities.
"In 1999, I underwent an Intraocular Lens Implant ( IOL) operation and I was able to ride two-wheelers after this. However, gradually, during the next nine years, due to damage to the nerves connected with eyesight, I started losing vision again," Anna recalls.
Just after his IOL operation, from the year 2000, Anna started practising as a lawyer in Madras High Court and after a short stint, moved to Chengalpattu district.
Aged 30, he got married to Gunavathy, daughter of G Bharathi Mohan and Kunjitham, both full-time workers of the CPM in Thanjavur district. On his wife's assistance in managing his routine affairs, Anna said: "She was highly hopeful that my shortcoming could be set right medically. My brother Dr Bhanu Goban helped me a lot economically. His help is very important during this pace of life."
In 2014, Anna started losing his vision in a big way. Anna had lost his vision completely in 2017 and declared himself as a visually challenged person. "During these three to four years, I was in deep depression due to my inability. Human relations got affected due to my visual impairment. Many times, when people came near me, I failed to recognise them. As an advocate, I was not able to refer to any document in court. In those days, audio stories like Ponniyin Selvan available on Youtube were only my solace," recalls Anna.
Asked why he did not reveal his problem to others, Anna said, "I was afraid of telling others about my difficulty because I thought I would be isolated from the routine activities. Since I was facing troubles on the economic front too, I thought telling others about my problem might drive me to the edge."
In the last meeting of the district unit that took place in 2017, Anna requested the party to relieve him from the district committee since he could not function efficiently. But the party did not accept it and asked him to continue.
"When I started mingling with the differently-abled persons and joined the Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently-Abled and Caregivers (TARATDAC), I regained my strength and continued my work with the help of artificial intelligence tools," he said.
Today, he is the vice president of the TARATDAC and an executive member of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD).
On how he is managing his routine affairs, Anna said, "Artificial intelligence is helping me a lot now. With the help of that, I am able to read and in knowing what is going on. Some software in the computer system like Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) screen reader as well as Text to Speech facility in Android mobile phone are making me capable of updating myself regularly."