In a curtain raiser to the series of events to be held on December 3, 2015, to mark the ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’, the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India, officially informed about the impending launch of their nation-wide flagship campaign the ‘Accessible India Campaign’ and the presentation of’ National Awards for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, 2015’. This event also marked the preview of the ‘First International Film Festival for Persons with Disabilities (IFFPwD), 2015’ being organized by the Department at Siri Fort, New Delhi (1st to 3rd December, 2015) in collaboration with the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC).

Speaking on the occasion, Secretary, DEPwD, MoSJE, Shri Lov Verma, said that this time 3rd of December has a special significance for the Department, as the day will not only commemorate the champions of disability through the National Awards but will also bear witness to the launch of the Accessible India Campaign by the hands of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi. In his latest ‘Mann Ki Baat’ address to the nation the Prime Minister had saluted the indomitable spirit of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs), who have overcome overwhelming odds to etch successful life stories. As a potential game-changer to widen the scope of accessibility throughout the country, Shri Lov Verma marked the launch of ‘Sugamya Bharat Abhyan’ – a nation-wide flagship campaign for achieving universal accessibility for PwDs – as an important step towards equal rights of PwDs leading to their equal participation in all activities of society – social, economic and political. Shedding further light on the scope of inclusive activities being carried out by the Department, Secretary, DEPwD, also briefed the audience on the one-of-a-kind International Film Festival being organized from the 1st to 3rd December at Siri Fort auditorium, New Delhi, as an effort to showcase cinema that opens our world to mind space of PwDs. He thanked the Hans Foundation and ALIMCO, co-partners for IFFPwD 2015, and urged all stakeholders present in the audience to participate in the above series of events lined up by DEPwD, to encourage and motivate the PwDs and make these events a thundering success.

Elaborating further on the two events of National importance lined up to mark the ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’, Joint Secretary, DEPwD, MoSJE, Shri Mukesh Jain, said that it is an honour for the Department that Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, will be presenting the National Awards for Persons with Disabilities and launching the ‘Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan’, on 3rd December. The National Awards were instituted in 1969 in order to recognise efforts of PwDs and encourage others to strive for excellence. This year, 52 awards are being presented across 13 different categories. Further, Shri Mukesh Jain explained how the mission of the Abhiyan is to create awareness and to build an inclusive society, with barrier-free environments for persons with disabilities. The three pillars on which the campaign rests are (a) Built environment-Increase the accessibility of the physical environment   that is open to the public (b) Transport system – Enhance the accessibility and usability of public transportation (c) Information and communication – Enhance the accessibility and usability of information and communication services. The Campaign reinforces the measures that that should be undertaken to eliminate obstacles and barriers to indoor and outdoor facilities, infrastructure and transportation and make them disability-friendly and accessible.

Shri Awanish Kumar Awasthi, Joint Secretary, DEPwD, then laid out the highlights of the 3-day Film Festival, IFFPwD 2015, for members of the audience. In recognition of the spirit of PwDs, this Festival is being commemorated with the motto of ‘Celebrating Diversity’ – from the 1st to 3rd December, 2015 at Siri Fort Auditorium, New Delhi. The Festival will be inaugurated by Hon’ble Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Shri Thaawarchand Gehlot in the presence of Ministers of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Shri Krishan Pal Gurjar and Shri Vijay Sampla at 12:30 PM on 1st December. Shri Awasthi added that noted film personalities Mr Gulzar, Mr Kabir Khan, Siddharth Kak, Ms. Sanjana Kapoor, Mr. Kabir Khan, Baby Harshali Malhotra, Mr Mahesh Limye and Ms Gauri Gadgil will also grace the opening ceremony. The closing ceremony and distribution of awards for the Best Film and Best Director, in all three categories, will be held from 1 PM onward on 3rd December. Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Shri Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore will grace the closing ceremony along with film personalities like Shri Vivek Oberoi and Mr Sanjay Suri. Giving further details, Shri Awanish Kumar Awasthi informed that this Festival will showcase cinemas that not only provide a window for the non-disabled to experience the world of disabilities, but also release the inherent creative talent that is part of the special abilities of the differently-abled. This unique cinematic initiative will see gala screenings of 40 competitive films (Feature Films/Documentary Films/Short films) on disabilities from various countries of the world, including some creative and eye-opening films from India. Popular movies like ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ and ‘Margarita with a Straw’ will be the star attractions in the non-competitive section of IFFPwD 2015. He also unveiled the inspirational Signature Film for IFFPwD, created by renowned animator-film maker, Ms Geetanjali Rao, at the curtain raiser.

Senior officials from the Ministry, other stakeholder Ministries; Co-organizers of IFFPwD 2015, The Hans Foundation and ALIMCO; representatives of UN agencies, international bodies, persons with disabilities, civil society, institutions, statutory bodies, academia and the media also graced this eventful curtain raiser.