As many as 650 million people, roughly 10 per cent of the world's population, live with a disability, according to the United Nations. In India alone, there are roughly 100 million people with disabilities, which is almost 1/6th of the population of disabled people in the world. India is the 7th country in the world to have ratified UNCRPD (United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities – India) on October 1, 2007. With this, the responsibility of institutions, civil society as well as corporates grows in ensuring that the rights of persons with disabilities are respected and asserted.
Essar Foundation envisions an inclusive world of greater acceptance, inclusion and a disabled-friendly society. It has stepped in to make a positive difference in the lives of the differently-abled, while infusing greater sensitivity among the rest of the society by bringing them together through strategic initiatives.
The Essar Freedom Cup cricket tournament was a recent effort by Essar Foundation to sensitize society towards the needs of the physically challenged. The event, which took place at the Bhanki Stadium in Surat, Gujarat, on June 1, 2014, was jointly organized by Essar Foundation, Essar Steel Hazira and Viklang Kalyan Society Trust, Surat.
The audience watched as four teams battled it out for the cup. The powerful sixes, the smooth fours and flawless catches left the onlookers breathless and they had a hard time believing that the children on the ground were physically challenged.
The thrilling match ended with Team Baroda being crowned champion; they defeated Team Saurashtra. Team Surat took the third position after defeating Team Gujarat. Imran Shaikh of Team Baroda, a one-man army, was judged the best player, best batsman and best bowler. The chief guest, Mr. Rakesh Asthana, Commissioner of Police, Surat, gave away the trophies and prize money.
Speaking at the event, Mr Ralph Sunil, Vice President, Administration and CSR, Essar Steel India Limited, said, "Essar acknowledges the significance of presenting relevant opportunities for the differently-abled for their optimal functioning. The positive response to the event has made us think in terms of making this an annual event to be played in a day-night format at our cricket stadium."
One of the unique Essar Foundation initiatives for the mainstreaming of the differently-abled is Unmukt, a national program for the outreach and strategic inclusion of the differently-abled. It was launched on World Sight Day in 2013 with the screening of an audio-described version of the popular film Taare Zameen Par
; the screening allowed more than 500 visually impaired and persons with multiple disabilities to enjoy the film along with sighted people. It was no ordinary screening. The movie had been specially customized for the visually-impaired using audio description technology. Hence, the visually-impaired members of the audience were able to enjoy the movie in its entirety. The sighted people in the audience were blindfolded to share the experience of their visually impaired companions. This was the first of many screenings in various cities, and a first step in Unmukt's journey to customize meaningful and popular cinema for the visually-impaired.
Essar Foundation's efforts to create an inclusive society where the differently-abled are supported and accepted unconditionally are reflected in its programs that continue to grow with newer initiatives expanding outreach to the unreached.