BENGALURU: Virali Modi’s online petition, demanding an accessible railway system for all has crossed over 93,000 signatures. Two ministers — Maneka Gandhi, Minister for Women and Child Development and Suresh Prabhu, Union railway minister — have already responded to her petition saying that they are open to talks.
Paralysed neck down from the age of 13, Virali, a writer based out of Mumbai, says, “My main goal is to meet the PM and explain the difficulties we face due to the lack of infrastructure and education.”
Virali says, “I was travelling to Delhi from Mumbai in 2008 and had to be lifted by porters to get into the train. The porter started groping my breasts. I stayed quiet because I was scared that if I said anything, they’d drop me. This happened thrice at different places.”
Parveen Issa who lost both her legs in an accident adds, “While I was travelling to Bengaluru from Bijapur two years ago, I was not allowed to board the train with my wheelchair by the railway authorities. They said wheelchairs are not allowed on trains. I had to request and apologise to be allowed on the train.”
Privacy is another concern among people with disability.
Virali says, “When I was travelling to Delhi, I had to wear a diaper because I couldn’t fit my wheelchair into the passageway of the compartment I was in, to use the washroom. I had to wait until the lights went off and everyone was asleep to change my diaper.” Parveen Issa says, “We travel with disabled men and sometimes, you need to change your clothes or remove the artificial leg.”
G N Nagaraj, Covenor, Joint Action Committee of Disabled Organisation, says, “The disabled have an ID card issued by the doctors, medical board and then the officer from the disability department. Then, why do they need a railway certificate?”
S Venkatesh, a wheelchair user, adds that the authorities still ask for the ID card and phone number when he’s travelling. “Even when they see I am disabled, they ask for the details. The compartment for the disabled doesn’t have a fixed location. It can either be in the front or the back.”
Venkatesh says, “No one comes to provide food, tea or coffee in the bogie for the disabled. The train does not stop long enough for us to get down and board at stations.”
The stations do not have enough wheelchairs or battery operated vehicles for the disabled people, they claim. Parveen says, “Most of these vehicles do not have charge. The workers prefer to take rich senior citizens who pay them well. They ill-treat people like us”.