People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 43

October 25, 2009

The Differently Abled Raise their Voice


G N Nagaraj


�I have not eaten for two days or been able to have a cup of tea� This was the anguished cry of Rajiv Rajan, B com LLB, from Chennai who was describing his experiences as a commuter on a train from Chennai traveling in the coach for disabled persons. The coach did not have a vestibular connection to other bogies and no vendor would enter the coach to sell tea, coffee or food. As Rajeev who has cerebral palsy was in a wheel chair and was unable to communicate his needs, he had to starve for two days.


He was part of a delegation which on October 14 met the Railway Board chairman, S S Khurana and other leading officials and held discussions regarding problems faced by disabled citizens in rail travel. The delegation submitted a memorandum containing certain demands for immediate action. Led by Brinda Karat, MP and Polit Bureau member of CPI(M) the delegation comprised of differently abled activists from Tamilnadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Jharkhand, UP etc.


The fact that the organisations of disabled citizens from various parts of the country came together demonstrated the urgency of the problems raised. The delegation mainly raised the problem of discontinuing unreserved coach for disabled. From August 1, 2009 the unreserved coach for disabled where passengers between 15 to 25 were traveling with their escorts has been converted into a reserved coach only for two disabled with their escorts. This has highly restricted the travel of the disabled and it has also become unaffordable for the poor among the disabled. Therefore the delegation requested for continuation of this facility of unreserved coach for the disabled. They also requested this unreserved coach may be expanded to allow at least forty passengers.


The delegation also requested the chairman to see that the Indian Railways introduce a specially designed reserved coach for the disabled and their escorts as an additional facility but not in place of the exiting facility.


They also requested that misuse of the coach for the disabled by railway employees, railway police personnel, military personnel and other general public may be prevented and an attendant be placed in this coach to ensure this. Any transgression should be punished severely. Since the coach for the disabled are placed at either the front or the back end of the train, it creates difficulties for the disabled to access them. Hence they demanded of the chairman that the position of this coach for disabled be always in the middle and the position may be announced on the arrival of the train. They also requested that this coach should have vestibular connection with other bogies to enable the occupants to have access to tea, coffee, snacks and food items.


Vijayan, president of differently abled persons welfare federation of Kerala produced a cutting from Malayalam press and cited the example of how Raju a handicapped person traveling in Kerala Express was attacked by railway staff including the driver even though he had genuine ticket, concession certificate and had every right to be in the coach. Sabuk, vice president, Maharashtra unit of National Association for Blind cited his experience of TTE threatening to throw him out of the bogie, accused him of entering first class bogies, demanding four hundred and fifty rupees as penalty for which he refused to give any receipt.  Yashwi , a youth suffering from mental retardation and physical disability from Karnataka narrated how he was refused reservation ticket by booking clerk in Bangalore city railway station four times as the clerk was not able to understand what is meant by �cerebral palsy� a word doctor had used to describe his disability. Madahini Thakur from Nagpur also described the harassment she faced at ticket counters while purchasing tickets for her daughter who is also mentally retarded.


The delegation demanded that physical presence of disabled should not be compulsory while buying a ticket on the concessional form.  They stressed that e-ticketing should also be extended to disabled persons. The delegation also demanded a sensitisation workshop for the railway staff. They demanded exemplary punishment in cases of rude behaviour and harassment of the disabled.






Railways is the largest employer in the country. The delegation  demanded the implementation of 3 per cent reservation under the provisions of the Persons With Disability Act, 1995. Jobs that various disabled can perform should be identified, notified and the backlog in Indian railway and local railways filled up. Railways should become a model employer with more that 3 per cent of railway employment being of the disabled. The delegation also demanded the shops and stalls at railway station may be allotted to disabled persons.


The delegation demanded that the railway concession be extended to local trains, passengers trains, Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duranto trains which is not granted currently. In Kolkata, the Pashchimbanga Rajya Pratibandhi Sammilani has led many protests of disabled persons for this demand. Similar is the case in other metropolitan cities also. 






The delegation urged that railways provide for universal design as per United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disability which  includes barrier free accessibility to all disabled and disabled friendly toilets. They also requested that battery operated cars be provided at all stations to ferry disabled passengers to and from the coaches.  This apart, the memorandum also demanded the setting up of a helpline for the disabled persons with common number to be provided in all railway stations.




The chairman of the Railway Board Khurana and other officers present were taken aback with the severity of the problems related by the differently abled persons of their own direct experience in the railways. He said the issues raised were very legitimate and railways would address them. He also announced that a special recruitment drive to fill up the backlog of employment of disabled persons will be started.