D.N.I.S. News Network – In a belated yet positive development, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad has finally acknowledged the demands of disabled people that were presented to him before the Railway Budget by promising that the Railways would take full care of their interests.
On 24 February, the Minister had left the disability sector heartbroken by apparently backtracking on his promise to two delegations of Disabled Rights Group (D.R.G.) after its activists laid siege outside his official residence demanding an audience to address their concerns in the Railway Budget 2006-2007.
Though the Railway Budget had almost nothing to offer in his reply to the debate on the Railway Budget 2006 – 2007 he had this to say:
“Sir, a delegation of disabled people met with me recently. Through this House, I would like to reassure them that Railway will take full care of their interests and facilities.
In a phased manner, the Indian Railways would construct the necessary facilities for disabled people – like parking, ramps, toilets, drinking water facilities, etc.
In trains, keeping the needs of the disabled in view, 1200 new (disabled-friendly) coaches have been added and soon, these (special) coaches will be added to all mail and express trains.”
Reacting to this D.R.G. Convenor Javed Abidi pointed out in a statement that the Railway Minister made a special reference to the needs of visually impaired and hearing impaired people and said: “This we think was significant because often ‘access’ is confused with only the needs of those who are physically disabled or mobility impaired.”
He further added, “As Convenor of the Disabled Rights Group (DRG), I draw a lot of solace and take a lot of pride in the fact that our advocacy efforts are pure ‘cross-disability’ in content and expression. The fact that we have, to some extent at least, sensitised Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav on cross-disability concerns is a matter of great joy.”
On behalf of D.R.G., he stated that: “We welcome this speech. The fact that it was delivered inside the Indian Parliament lends it certain sanctity. We look forward to working closely with the Chairman, Railway Board and other concerned officials of the Railway Ministry to ensure that some concrete action is taken soon.”