Volume 3 Issue 10 - May 15, 2005

Railways turns deaf ear to memorandum from N.C.P.E.D.P.; claims it is doing ‘enough’

DNIS News Network - While the countrys railway stations and train coaches remain inaccessible for persons with disabilities, the Ministry of Railways has given a lukewarm response to a memorandum by N.C.P.E.D.P. for inclusion of disability issues in the Railway Budget 2005-06.

Picture of a railway station depicting its inaccessibility to persons with disabilitiesResponding to the memorandum, Indian Railways Joint Director, Establishment, B. Majumdar claims that as an organisation, the Railways was doing enough already as its social obligation, and it was not possible to make any separate budgetary allocation to implement some of the recommendations suggested. In a letter dated 6 April, Majumdar wrote: From time to time, facilities like provision of wheelchair, tri-cycle, and modifications of coaches for facilitating disabled persons have already been provided.

The above claim appears far-fetched, as even a casual visit to stations reveals that apart from a token wheelchair, usually in a dilapidated condition, most of the structures from the entrance to the stations, right up to the coaches, remain inaccessible. The National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.) memorandum had called for providing support services to disabled travellers, such as providing assistants, interpreters, wheelchairs, etc, at all railway stations. Further, the letter does not mention the recommendation for formulating a policy that all new projects (development and expansion plans) will take note of the issue of disability access, from the initial planning stage right up to completion.

Regarding the demand for allocating resources to make railway stations, coaches, waiting rooms, reservation centres, offices and other services disabled friendly, the Ministry said it gives a passenger subsidy of over Rs. 5,700 crore per annum and is unable to make any more budgetary allocation for persons with disability.

The response to the memorandum shows lack of seriousness. For instance, the issue of doing away with current concession rules for hearing impaired -- hat requires a person to be both deaf and mute (both afflictions together in the same person) -- has not been responded to by the Ministry. The Disability Act, 1995, recognises hearing impairment as a basic disability, but this seems to have gone un-noticed by the Ministry. The letter states, So far as Railways are concerned, proactive measures are taken to comply with the provisions of the Disability Act and no separate budgetary provisions are required to be made on this count.

The approach of the Ministry is one of shrugging away from implementing the Disability Act in its true spirit. The Ministry is being dismissive about genuine suggestions to make the worlds largest transport system accessible, and in many cases usable, for persons with disability.

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