Swagat Thorat wanted do something substantial and fundamental for his blind friends and go beyond the erstwhile initiatives. Lancing the customary space, Swagat decided to introduce a newspaper in Braille, India’s first! By Pratiksha Kapoor
Swagat had a complying childhood, and traced his passions to become an acclaimed wildlife photographer, playwright, director, and painter. It was in 1993, when he did his first project with the visually challenged: a documentary about two schools for the blind in Pune. Later he found a mention in “Guinness World Records” for a Marathi play, “Swatantryachi Yashogatha” with 88 blind artistes from two schools.
Reliance Drishti is a drive to bring light into the lives of the visually challenged from the underprivileged segment of society. PROJECT DRISHTI, a nationwide corneal grafting drive has restored sight to over 5,000 people. A unique and joint initiative of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) and the National Association of the Blind (NAB) is now the largest corneal grafting surgery project enabled by a single corporate entity in India.
Project Drishti, under the leadership of Nita Ambani, president, Dhirubhai Ambani Foundation, is working zealously to bring light into the lives of millions who have so far lived in darkness. Nita says, “We are committed in our endeavour to bring light into the lives of the visually challenged brethren.”
Speaking on the occasion, Smt. Ambani said, “I realized that there is the need for dedicated published material on current affairs and with Reliance Drishti we are seeking to add value to the lives of visually impaired in the country. The enthusiasm and dedication of Shri. Swagat Thorat and the support from the NAB have been critical to make Reliance Drishti a reality!!”
In an interview Swagat said “The biggest hurdle was to convince people that the blind needed a newspaper. When we first started, even parents of the blind asked why their children need a newspaper.”
The organizations publish everything that is in the mainstream media. Both the publications have articles on politics, social and governance issues, to health-related articles, to profiles on famous personalities. Also there are articles on cooking, yoga and all other aspects of life. It also includes an editorial page just like any other newspaper, where views on various issues that affect our country, such as corruption, governance and politics are incorporated. However, stories relating to astrology, cricket and crime are not included in Sparshdnyan, though news about cricket is published in Drishti.
Swagat’s work has received many awards such as Natyagaurav Puraskar, Maharashtra Deep Puraskar, Sneha Puraskar, Rajeev Gandhi Puraskar, Salute Mumbai award by In Channel and the ‘Real Hero’ award by CNN IBN channel. Despite the awards and accolades that came his way, humility is the virtue he holds dearest.