Volume 4 Issue 2 - January 15, 2006

Why are there no disabled-friendly cars on Indian roads? Asks National Human Rights Commission

D.N.I.S. News Network- In a much needed move to address the brazen neglect of design and production of passenger cars for disabled people, the National Human Rights Commission (N.H.R.C.) has asked the Central Government as to “why there were no disabled-friendly cars on Indian roads?”

The Commission has asked the Ministry of Heavy Industries Secretary to comment on a complaint that car manufacturing companies, even those in the public sector, have stopped making vehicles for disabled people. According to a news report, a wheelchair user had filed a complaint with N.H.R.C., arguing that car manufacturing companies and the government have the social responsibility to manufacture disabled-friendly vehicles. Taking cognizance, the Commission asked the Government to comment on it.

The issue has surfaced at a time when the National Capital is abuzz with the 8th Auto Expo that showcases the best of the automobile industry in India. It can only be termed as unfortunate that the high-profile event highlights the lack of sensitivity on the part of manufacturers catering to one of the world's fastest growing car market, as there are almost no disabled-friendly models either in production or in conception phase.

Maruti Udyog Limited used to make a Maruti 800 automatic and sell it only to certified disabled people. However, since the car was subsidized, its black-marketing became rampant. The state-owned company instead of working with the government in strengthening the system against malpractice, decided to stop production of the car itself. In the ongoing International Automobile Exhibition, Solio, a variant of Maruti Wagon R, with special disabled-friendly features like provision to carry wheelchairs and rotating driver’s seats, is on display. But as any disabled driver would tell, space in the boot for wheelchair is not the only requirement of a disabled-friendly car.

According to a media report, Ford officials have said that the company was “looking” at launching disabled-friendly car models in the coming years. The company has about 15 per cent market share in the mid-size segment in India, and sold around 27,000 Ford models here last year.

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