Volume 3 Issue 24 - December 15, 2005

Access audit by D.L.U. South belies claims of disabled-friendly railway stations

D.N.I.S. News Network - Following an affidavit filed by the Indian Railways in the Madras High Court in a hearing on a Public Interest Litigation, an audit team from Disability Law Unit (D.L.U.), South, Vidya Sagar, has found false the claims made in the affidavit about disabled-friendly services at Chennai Central and Egmore stations.

Picture of an inaccessible coach

A report prepared by the team, constituting Rajiv Rajan, Dhana Sekar and Manjunathan, says that most of the statements made in the affidavit are incorrect. They visited platforms 6 to 9 where five trains were stationed at the time of visit. These were Thiruvanthapuram-Chennai Mail, Thiruppathur-Chennai, Elagiri Express, Hyderabad-Chennai Chaminar Express, Mysore-Chennai-Thirupathi Express, and Coimbatore-Chennai Cheran Express.

"It was astonishing to note that none of these trains out of which three are connecting links between major cities of South India had no special compartment for disabled people as mentioned in the affidavit. It was also found that disability sign is being used in the normal compartment," the report says.

Another point mentioned in the affidavit is that the wheelchairs have been modified to allow easy entry into the coaches but what the access auditors saw at the Chennai Central was shocking. "Leave alone any new adaptation, the wheelchair had no front wheels," it adds.

"It will be difficult for even a non-disabled person to get into the so-called disabled-friendly coach, as it is in no way different from the normal compartment at least at the doorsteps, excepting for a wider door. It is also interesting to note that the coach is not connected with other coaches in the train. In fact it is an extention of the luggage wagon," the report further adds.

The report also claims that no facility is available to lift a person on wheelchair into this coach. The disabled-freindly coach is actually an unreserved compartment and can accommodate only two disabled people and their escorts. There are incidents when more than 20 disabled people with escorts have travelled by the coach, which has the capacity of carrying only four.

"If this is the case of the two major stations at a place where the regional head quarters is situated, what about other places? What will be the accessibility condition in small places? Can anyone from the railways dare to answer these questions?" concludes the audit report.

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