Railways not compassionate towards differently abled: reveals Audit

The audit report assumes significance in wake of Modi’s ‘Mann ki Baat’, where he insisted on greater comfort for differently abled people.

Handicapped crossing TracksNew Delhi: Despite all modernisation, a comfortable journey for differently-abled in Indian trains is a distant dream. An audit conducted by Svayam, a Jindal Saw supported foundation, of the new rail coaches meant for the disabled people, reveals that despite their paying capacity, differently abled people find it inconvenient to travel in higher classes like 3AC or 2AC.

The only disabled-friendly coach is the general coach at the two ends of the train, making people with special needs more vulnerable as quite often they have to travel alone. Toilets and other facilities in higher classes can as well hardly be used by travelers with disabilities.

The audit report stated that modifications made in new coaches were the only improvement in internal design and no intervention has been made to make them accessible for the disabled. “Most classes give a miss to accessibility.

Except for a half coach in non-A.C. class, accessibility for disabled is missing in all other classes. Hence, a user who cannot afford higher class can’t travel with ease,” the report said.

The findings assume significance in wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’, wherein he had insisted on greater comfort and ease to differently-abled persons.

A senior railway board official claimed that the new coaches are being manufactured in such a way that disabled people can travel comfortably in all classes.

“All disabled-friendly measures are being taken in air conditioned classes for the convenience of such passengers,” the official said.

Shortcomings in the new coaches

However, contrary to it, the report finds a number of shortcomings in these coaches. There is no provision of aisle chairs in the trains. The toilets on platforms are also not accessible. Only one small half coach is attached to long-distance trains at the either end, which detaches the disabled ones from their families or general public.

The auditor has also found loopholes in design of the platforms and the coaches that add to the woes. It said the doors of the trains are so small that they are inaccessible for people on wheelchairs. “There is no accessibility provision for inter-connectivity of platforms.

Most other classes of travel have no suitable aisle space. In fact with the new modifications the aisle space has further been reduced making movement of disabled people difficult,” the report said.

Coaches have also been criticised for not having Braille and other signage for visually and hearing-impaired travelers. The decades-old problem of getting inside the train on wheelchairs remained unaddressed.

In contrast to other countries

It may be noted that in countries like America, France, Britain, Malaysia and South Africa, railway stations have portable hydraulic lifts, which are just platforms that can be raised to the level of the train’s floor. It is a very dignified and safe way for a person with disabilities to board and alight from the train.

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