(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
October 02, 2011
Problems of the Disabled
Raised with Railway Minister
REPRESENTATIVES of 17 organisations working among the disabled in the country, met the union railway minister Dinesh Trivedi on September 28, 2011 to draw attention to the problems faced by people with reduced mobility, the elderly in general and those with disabilities in particular, while travelling with the Indian Railways.
The delegation among other things demanded extension of e-booking facility for the disabled, extension of concessions on tickets to all those categorised as disabled in the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. They also demanded that concessions be provided in local and passenger trains as well, as was being provided in long distance trains.
The members of the delegation pointed out that railway stations are not accessible. Ramps are rare and that too limited for entry into the foot over-bridges. Platforms are inaccessible. The gap (height) between the platform and the coach varies from station to station. There is not enough space for mobility inside the coaches. Toilets cannot be used by persons with certain disabilities. In this light, they demanded that the railways should set up a task force on access and go in for universal design. They also demanded that battery operated cars now provided at some stations should be made available at all major stations and platforms.
For the past many years the railways have not made recruitment to fill the 3 per cent quota for disabled persons mandated by the PWD Act. In the matter of promotions also, despite court orders, reservations in promotions are not being implemented. They urged upon the minister to fill the backlog both in employment and promotions without delay.
Dinesh Trivedi gave a patient hearing. He assured the delegation to consider their demands sympathetically. He also stressed the need for the railways being more sensitive to the issues of the disabled.
The delegation was led by Brinda Karat, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and ex member of parliament and comprised of Muralidharan, assistant convenor of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled, Rajive Raturi of the Human Rights Law Network, SC Vashisht of Svayam, Abdool Mabood of Snehi amongst others. They submitted a memorandum to the minister, in which they welcomed the decision to extend concessions to the disabled in Shatabdi and Rajdhani trains. This was one of the demands that was raised with the ministry earlier. However, many other issues continue to remain unaddressed. Some urgent issues mentioned in the memorandum are as follows:
(i) Extend concession to all trains: The railways have been providing concessions for disabled persons in mail and express trains, which now has been extended to Rajdhani and Shatabdi also. But the concession is not provided in local and passenger trains and the Garib Rath. We request that concessions be provided on these trains also.
(ii) Validity of disability certificates: Currently, a separate certificate has to be obtained for availing railway concession. The railways should accept disability certificates or cards as valid proof of the disability of the concerned person and do away with the requirement of a separate certificate.
(iii)Travelling without Escorts: Except for visually impaired persons and the hearing and speech impaired, currently all other disabled persons have to invariably travel with escorts if they have to avail concession. This restricts their right to travel. All disabled persons who are capable of travelling independently like persons with locomotor disabilities should be allowed to travel with or without escort.
(iv) Concession to mentally disabled persons: People with mental illness are included in the PWD Act but they are not provided concessions in the railways. All those classified as disabled in the PWD Act should be provided concession in the railways.
(v) Concession on tatkal tickets: The usual concession given on other tickets should also be provided for bookings made under tatkal.
· E-booking facility: E-booking facility should be extended to the disabled. In fact they require it more than non-disabled persons. As in the case of senior citizens, the TTE can ask for proof (disability certificate) during the course of the journey.
· Coach for disabled: Many a time the coach meant for the disabled is occupied by other travellers, railway employees and even RPF personnel. It should be ensured that the coach be placed next to the guard’s coach and a disabled sensitive attendant be provided in these coaches to ensure that none other than disabled persons and their escorts are allowed.
· Accessibility: The PWD Act of 1995 mandates railway stations and coaches to be made barrier free. Its implementation, however, has been disappointing. Tactile marking should be made on the platform to guide blind persons to the exit, bridges, stairs, ticketing counters etc. Tactile markings should also be provided on the edges of the platforms. Platform numbers should be labelled in Braille both at the entry/exit points as well as on the railing of the foot overbridge.
· Sensitising railway staff: The disabled encounter a lot of problems at railway counters. There is a need to sensitise all personnel working in the railways, especially those dealing directly with travellers, on issues connected with disability.