Disabled forced to ‘pay’ for wheelchairs at Chennai; Doctor with disability harassed at Mumbai

Chennai: The iconic Chennai Central railway station is anything but friendly towards senior citizens and the differently abled. Not only are they provided with dirty wheelchairs they are even forced to pay for a facility that is supposed to be free, they complain.

A week ago, when a passenger nearly fainted at the station, a porter appeared with a wheelchair and offered to ferry the patient to the emergency medical centre – for an exorbitant fee. When questioned, he walked away nonchalantly leaving the patient to fend for himself.

Disabled rights activist T M N Deepak says, “It is the responsibility of the railway ministry to provide us with well-functioning wheelchairs but we only get broken ones.” Others say they can find a wheelchair only at the passenger care centre near the station manager’s office. The lack of proper signage to guide the disabled is another problem they say, adding that it is against the UN declaration on persons with disabilities.

ph disabled personsA railway employee at the passenger care centre said, “Wheel chairs are provided to the disabled for free but if they require assistance with the wheelchair they are charged accordingly.” But the Railways has not displayed these charges.

Meenakshi of Equals, a centre for promotion of social justice, said, “Even if we get assistance from the railway staff or porters, they charge us with exorbitant rates which are higher than our train tickets.” Most disabled passengers cannot afford these charges and are forced to push the wheelchairs themselves, she said. “Whenever I travel I carry my wheelchair,” she said.

Nasarath of Tiruvallur said he travelled to many places in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka but I face problems with wheelchairs only in Chennai. “We are not allowed to take the wheelchairs even to the nearby bus stop.”

“We would like to travel on our own and not depend on somebody for assistance. Railways officials can initiate a public-private partnership for provision and maintenance of wheelchairs in railway stations,” said Deepak.  There have been instances when passengers have been taken on baggage trolleys from a train to the entrance for want of wheelchairs.

A senior railway official said battery-operated cars and wheelchairs were provided free. “We offer wheelchairs at passenger care centre for those in a medical emergency. People are also available assistance. An ambulance is stationed to move passengers to hospital,” he added.

Insensitive Railwaymen forces senior Government Doctor with 70% disability, to climb multiple platform FOBs with wrong information

In another incident, a senior government doctor with 70 per cent orthopaedic disability was allegedly harassed and put to inconvenience at the New Delhi railway station early this week. The physician complained that his journey turned into a nightmare because of the highly insensitive behaviour of railway officials there.

“On October 27, I reached the New Delhi railway station to catch my train Kashi Vishwanath from New Delhi to Bareilly,’’ said Dr. Satendra Singh. “From platform 1, I had to reach platform 8; so I asked for a battery-operated car stating I am a disabled person. The man at the counter told me that the service had stopped.

Wheelchair facility was a paid service. Besides, the lift available was not connected to the platform that I wanted to go to,” said Dr. Singh.

Later, a railway official on duty explained that there is a payment issue of the battery car operators. Hence this facility has stopped for the past one-and-a-half months.

“I made a written complaint (number 34) and got a receipt. With great difficulty, I climbed steps and reached platform 8, where I saw a battery-operated car ferrying passengers to platform 10. I clicked a few photographs. This means both the railways officials deliberately gave me false information despite seeing me in crutches. Their signed letter is the testimony,” said Dr. Singh.

He was also misinformed about the platform on which his train had come in. “I managed to catch my train just in time from another platform,” he said.

Meanwhile, responding to Dr. Singh’s official complaint, Anant Swarup, executive director (Public Grievances), Ministry of Railways, said, “A complaint has been received from our valued passenger regarding harassment and misbehaviour by railway staff. Please enquire into the matter immediately and send a report at the earliest.”

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