Recipient of Prime Minister’s award for excellence in public administration, director of education, training, and service centre (e.t.c.) for persons with different abilities Varsha Bhagat is a well-known figure in Navi Mumbai. Known for her selfless and dedicated services, Bhagat is greatly applauded for pioneering the idea of establishing e.t.c. – a ‘one stop resource centre’ to meet the needs of differently-abled persons.
At 19, she got married. She gave up her seat in MBBS course and opted for BSc to keep her family’s wish. During a visit to an institute for the deaf and mute during her graduation, Bhagat felt the need to do something for differently ‘abled’ persons.
Later, she pursued B.Ed in special education and M.Ed from National Institution for hearing disability after her son’s birth. “I realized that to serve the society, one does not need a MBBS degree. It gives me immense satisfaction to see happiness on the faces of my students and their parents. It is very important that the society understands and respects persons with disability,” she said.
e.t.c. organizes community-based rehabilitation programmes, rallies, workshops, street plays etc. individually and in collaboration with other organizations to create awareness among general public. The centre provides educational intervention to more than 600 children with special abilities. It also provides screening, diagnosis, counseling, guidance, therapies, aid-appliances and various rehabilitative facilities completely free of cost to thousands of persons with different abilities.
Presently, about 107 professionals and administrative staff works at the centre. About 65 special professionals are working at e.t.c. which includes special educators, audiologists, speech therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, social workers and other consultants.
A strong advocate for ‘inclusive’ education, Bhagat states, “It is heartening to see that e.t.c. has set a bench mark. This became possible only because of team effort, support from NMMC, senior officials, parents and others”.
She believes determination and focus is all one needs to succeed. “As a lady in a male-dominated government organization, I never had to prove myself because my honesty and work spoke louder. I have always been applauded and recognized,” she said. Her advice to women: If you wish to be treated as an equal, you must not cite excuse of household responsibility to shirk work. You must complete your assignments within deadlines. Only then will people respect you.