When the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, Pandit Nehru said, “The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere...” Today, a giant of a man, who brought light wherever there was darkness, was called away by the Almighty. Mr Ajay Kumar Mittal, a champion and crusader for equality and an inclusive civil society passed away of a cardiac arrest at 10.30 am at Yatharth hospital, Noida Extension, leaving behind his wife Meera and daughter Nitika and son in law, Dushyant. But his family was global, including all those with visual impairment and those who worked and campaigned towards an inclusive society... As treasurer and currently serving Secretary General of the World Blind Union, he impacted lives throughout the world; all of whom were his family. Blindness never deterred him from pursuit of excellence in his life.
“With heavy heart I am informing you that our Organization’s President, Mr. A.K. Mittal and my long trusted friend and well-wisher is no more. I need not to mention it here that the Country has lost a great man and this is an irreparable loss for all of us nationally and internationally. I have not seen any knowledgeable person like him in my life,” condoled Mr Kaul, now Secretary General of the AICB of which Mr. Mittal was the long serving President since 2007. “Education is the key to empowerment” was the common refrain and for years he was the Principal of the well-reputed JPM Senior Secondary School for the Blind run by the Blind Relief Association, New Delhi. As the Principal, he became the Mentor to hundreds of children, who were rudderless, till then. His students today occupy distinguished and respected positions as bankers, teachers, civil servants and in many other positions too numerous to recount in detail.
He was handpicked by the Government to head the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped, a position he served with distinction for over two decades, first at Dehradun and then at the Centre created at Chennai. Meanwhile his passion for scholarship, reflected in his double Masters degree of English and Education, later augmented by a Diploma in Education from the world-renowned Perkins School for the Blind USA; found expression in the many books he authored, edited or inspired others to write on aspects of social inclusion, special education and biographical inspirational accounts of achievers, many of whom his own former students!
The country will forever be indebted to him for his constructive role in influencing social sector laws as member of numerous government established Advisory bodies, especially of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Most importantly, international organisations repeatedly turned to him for contributing his vision to the strategic development and implementation of UN mandated sustainable development goals and the UNCRPD – UN Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities. Leadership roles were thrust at him and it is to his immense credit that he balanced his professional life with social activism and scholarship all the while raising a beautiful family with his sighted wife Meera by his side and two daughters, the younger of whom unfortunately predeceased him succumbing to Cancer.
His loss is incalculable. However, the greatest tribute to his life and mission would be in rededicating ourselves to two things dearest to him:
- Pursuit of Excellence and
- Creating a Rights Based inclusive Society.
There will naught be another like him to walk this earth.
All India Confederation of the Blind