Forty six years ago, the plight of the visually impaired in the State of Kerala was desperately pathetic. They were a neglected, ignored, stigmatized and discriminated section of society. The only service for them was education up to 7th standard. There were 4 Government Schools for the visually impaired and 3 private schools run almost like orphanages. Only a few visually impaired persons could get higher education and even for them there were no jobs.
The attitude and approach of the Government and society at large were disheartening. There were no organized efforts to ventilate the grievances, needs, capabilities and possibilities of the visually impaired. In such a situation, it was but natural that the 'neglected' began to think about themselves to find a way to ensure their rightful existences in the society as individuals and a self – conscious and cohesive group.
A few visually impaired persons in Trivandrum came together and formed 'Associated Blind of Trivandrum' in May 1967. On their initiative an adhoc committee to organize the first State Convention of the visually impaired was constituted. Sri.P.O Varghese was the Chairman and Sri. Chettur Uniikrishnan was the Convener. Under the auspices of the adhoc committee, nearly 70 visually impaired persons from different parts of the State especially from existing institutions met on the 10th and 11th of September 1967 at Government School for the Blind, Deaf and dump Kunnamkulam, Trichur. On the 11th of September, the Constitution of Kerala federation of the Blind was adopted and the Federation came into existence. It was inaugurated by Shri. A.S.N.Nambeesan MLA. It was the embodiment of the wishes, hopes, ideals and expectations of the blind of this beautiful land. Among those who pioneered the movement were M/s. E.V. Joseph, P.O.Varghese, F.S. Abdul Salam, Chettur Unnikrishnan, Georgekutty Kareparambil, T.P.Subramanian and C.Balakrishnan Nair. Among those who helped to organize the Convention were Dr. C.C.Mathew, M/s. K.P.Eyakku, Municipal Chairman, T.S.Bandhu, T.C. Iype and P.K.Hassan Rawther, Headmaster and Sri. K. Chandran Pillai, Teacher of the School.
In the beginning, the Federation was concentrating mostly on getting on better deal from the Government and bringing about better attitudes towards them in the society. The Federation grew and flourished slowly and steadily. It captured the hearts of the visually impaired, moved Government machinery, attracted the goodwill of social workers, service organizations and the public and attained progress in several dimensions. In 1969 the Federation was registered under the Travancore Cochin Literary, Scientific and Charitable Societies Registration Act 12 of 1955 as 71 of 1969. K.F.B was represented in the first Convention of the International Federation of the Blind held in Colombo from 1st to 5th October that year. M/s E.V.Joseph, F.S Abdul Salam and Georgekutty Kareparambil were the delegates. In 1975, K.F.B was granted Income – tax – registration under section 12A (a) of Income Tax, Kerala Circle and donations to the Federation were granted income tax exemption under section 80G of Income Tax Act 1961. In 1973 the Federation was given representation in the State Level Committee for the Welfare of the Handicapped, Department of education. Since then, K.F.B has been represented in various committees for the handicapped constituted by the State Government. It has been invited to and represented in several meetings and seminars held by the Ministry of Welfare, Govt. of India, National Institute for the Visually Handicapped, National Council for Education, Research and Training and other national institutes and agencies for the welfare of the disabled. In 1979 the General Secretary of K.F.B was included by the Ministry of Welfare, Govt. of India in the official delegation to the Soviet Union. In 1983 K.F.B was presented with the National Award for Outstanding Employers of the Handicapped in recognition of its outstanding services by H.E. the President of India. In1985 and1988 the State Government also presented to the Federation similar awards. In 1997, KFB received the prestigious 'National Award for the Best Institution Working for the Disabled' from H.E the President of India. In 2008 KFB received, Award for the Best Institution for the Disabled from Kerala State Handicapped Welfare Corporation.
The President of KFB was selected as one of the members of the State Executive Committee, under Person with Disability Act by Govt. of Kerala. In 2011, Presided of KFB was included in the State Coordination Committee under PWD Act. General Secretary of KFB also has been included in the State Executive Committee, under PWD act in the year of 2013.
The main objectives of the Federation are:-
The insignia of the federation is 'equality', 'security' and 'opportunity'. It proclaims that the visually impaired has equal rights and deserves equal treatment by the sighted. They need security from discrimination and exploitation. They need opportunities just like any other individuals to develop their personality and lead a self – reliant, self respecting and useful life.
The registered office of the Federation is at Trivandrum, near Law College junction. This office was inaugurated on 8th February 1985 by Giani Zail Singh, H.E the President of India in the presence of Shri. P. Ramachandran, H.E, the Governor of Kerala and Shri. K. Karunakaran, Hon'ble chief Minister of Kerala.
Membership of the Federation has been increased steadily through years and now there is a total of 5000 members.
K.F.B has been functioning as a ginger group of the blind whenever it was necessary. The first agitation by K.F.B was a hunger strike before the Secretariat from 1st to 10th June 1969. The main demands were to reserve at least 25% of vacancies of teachers in the schools for the blind for qualified visually impaired persons and to admit educated visually impaired persons for training of teachers of the blind conducted by the State Government. K.F.B was forced to resort to this agitation when even post graduates among the blind were denied admission to the training for which SSLC and training in teaching the blind was the minimum qualification. Shri. Chettur Unnikrishnanfasted for 10 days. 3 others Shri. T.Ramachandran, Shri. T.P.Vasu and Shri. K.Rajan also paeticipated in the fasting. The hunger strike was withdrawn as the State Government held discussion with K.F.B and accepted our demands.
On the first of January 1981, on the first day of the International Year of the Disabled, K.F.B led a rally to the Secretariate and held a Dharna at its gate, in order to get a charter of rights with 35 demands approved by the Government. Shri.E.KNayanar, the Hon'ble Chief Minister met the representatives of K.F.B on the same day and assured favourable consideration. However, even after 3 years most of the demands could not be realized. Therefore, on the 1st of August 1984, K.F.B led another rally of the blind to the Secretariat and started a relay hunger strike by the leaders of the Federation. On the 14th of August Shri. K.Karunakaran, the Hon'ble Chief Minister held a discussion with the representative of K.F.B and assured the redressal of our grievances as early as possible.
Again some of our major demands such as reservation of jobs for the blind, enhancement of disability pension etc. remained to be solved. Therefore, on the 20th of January 1987 K.F.B organized a token fasting dharna before the Secretariat. It was followed by 24 hours relay fasting sathyagraha by the leaders of the Federation. On the 25th of January, Shri.G.Vijayan, one of the secretaries of K.F.B started indefinite fasting. When he was taken to the hospital on 4th February, Shri. P.Ramakrishnan, one of the Vice Presidents began fasting. After him Shri. C.K.Aboobacker, State Executive Committee Memberfasted from 9th to 12th and Shri. R.Rajan, President, K.F.B K.F.B Students Forum from 12th to 15th February. District level picketing beforeCollectorates by the Disrtict Units were also organized. As directed by Shri.K.Karunakaran, the Hon'ble Chief Minister, Shri. V.Ramachandran I.A.S, Chief Secretary to Government held discussions on 11th February with K.F.B representatives and assured the implementation of demands that do not require financial commitment. Since the Government changed after the general election in March 1987 we met the new Chief Minister Shri. E.K.Nayanar on the 31st of March 1987 and submitted our various demands.
As there was no response from the Government for 2 years K.F.B organized a march to Legislative Assembly and held a dharna before the Secretariat on 27th March 1989. Shri. Varkala Radhakrishnan, the Hon'ble Speaker received the representatives of K.F.B and accepted our memorandum. The agitation was called off on the written assurance that the Chief Minister would held a discussion with the Federation at an early date. Accordingly, on the 8th May 1989, Shri. E.K Nayanar, the Hon'ble Chief Minister, held a discussion with the representatives of K.F.B in the presence of Shri. K.Chandrasekharan, the Hon'ble Minister for Education, and Shri. Lonappan Nambadan, the Hon'ble Minister for Housing. Many of our demands were agreed upon. Besides K.F.B had several discussions with Hon'ble Ministers, Government Secretaries and Heads of Departments and other officials on various issues. Nevertheless the Government was too slow to implement the decisions. Therefore on the 25th of February 1991 K.F.B organized a picketing before the Secretariat and 400 members got arrested. From 26th February to 15th March relay fasting by K.F.B Office bearers and others workers was held. In response, the Hon'ble Chief Minister Shri.E.K.Nayanar again held a discussion with our representatives on the 14th of March 1991 in the presence of Smt. K.R.Gouri Amma, Hon'ble Minister for Industries and Social Welfare, Sri.KChandrasekharan, Hon'ble Minister for Education and Shri. Lonappan Nambadan, Hon'ble Minister for Housing. Several decisions in our favour were taken. The agitation was called off on the 15th of March as enhancement of disability pension from Rs.75 to Rs. 85 per month was included in the budget for the year 1991 – 92.
K.F.B has also involved itself in agitations based on local issues mostly in the Government Schools for the Blind. K.F.B has been playing a significant role in settling many a problems faced by the pupils of these schools. The Federation also actively participated in the agitation by the staff and students of School for the Blind, Aluva in protest to the police action in that school on 9th November 1986 and tried its best to bring about a reasonable and peaceful settlement. The another encounter has had with the State Government has been due to the decision of the Hon'ble Minister for Transport and of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation restricting the free travel facility in K.S.R.T.C, buses. From 18th to 29th June 1992, K.F.B organized rally, dharna and picketing in different places in the State. The dharna organized in front of M.L.A quarters on the 29th of June after picketing, and arrest by police at the Secretariat gate has been a critical one. Other organizations of the disabled also joined the Federation in this decisive struggle. Shri. Oommen Chandy, Hon'ble Minister for Finance accompanied by a few M.L.As came came to the place and met the disabled brethren. His honour arranged a discussion with the Hon'ble Minister for Transport Shri. R.Balakrishna Pillai at his residence on the very night in which favourable decisions were taken. A further discussion was held on the 8th of July 1992 by the Minister for Transport in the presence of Hon'ble Minister for Finance and Hon'ble Minister for Industries and Social Welfare. In the discussion Shri. R.Balakrishna Pillai, the Hon'ble Minister for Transport assured that the concessions to the blind will continue as before without any change. It is to be regretted that the Hon'ble Minister did not keep his word while implementing the decision. Therefore at present we are trying our best to settle the issue through discussions and persuasion. If our efforts fail we may be forced to plunge into agitation again as a last resort to get our genuine demand accepted and long enjoyed right protected.
Strike Against Unemployment
Under the leadership of K.F.B, continuous fasting strike was conducted from 19th July 2010 at Secretariat gate, and on 21st & 26th July, March & Picketing at the Legislative Assembly gate, and on 26th July evening dharna at the entrance of MLA Hostel. The capital city of Thiruvananthapuram has witnessed this strong agitation programmes in which hundreds of visually impaired persons from different districts of the State participated. Effective implementation of 3% job reservation for visually impaired and other disabled persons and the backlog appointment of visually impaired persons for the period from 1st January 2004 to 31st December 2007 through special recruitment were the important demands of the strike. As a result of the strike, KFB succeeded in bringing the reasonable and genuine demands of visually impaired persons to the notice of the Government and the public, in raising relevant questions by MLA's before Legislative Assembly, and to hold discussions with Hon'ble Minister for Health and Social Welfare. Though, the first two discussions were incomplete, agitation continued and finally reached at an agreement in a discussion held on 19-08-2010 between the concerned Minister and KFB representatives. The Federation extends its gratitude to each and every member who involved for the success of the strike, to those who involved in the said fasting strike and those who became the victims of police torture.