Railways indifferent towards disabled commuters' woes

Railways indifferent towards disabled commuters' woes

How does a physically disabled commuter know whether the train he wants to board has a separate disabled coach? There is only one way—to call the railway station and ask.

But the curious thing is that the same train could or could not have the same coach attached with it on the very next day.

This glaring apathy amply reflects the ill treatment meted out to disabled commuters from Indian Railways.

No guarantee of coach at all. Neither one could assume at which part their compartment was attached, if it is there.

So a physically disabled person has to run the entire stretch of a train to find out where the coach is.

It was in adherence to the persons with disabilities (equal opportunities, protection of right and full participation) Act of 1995, the Railways began to allocate special reserved coaches for disabled persons’ travelling.

In SLRD (sleeper, luggage, guard, disabled) coach, eight seats will be meant for disabled and in SRD (without luggage), six seats are allocated for the same.

Though the Railway rule underlines that the disabled coach should be attached adjacent to the guard’s coach (at tail portion) as he is the custodian of the same, the rule is seldom practised.

Many a times, if a train has a coach for disabled near to guard’s coach, on return of the same train, the coach would be at the front part, with none to take care of.

When asked about the same, a highly placed Railway officer said the non-existence of clear-cut mention about the coach for disabled in Railway rules is the real problem.

 “According to the rule, the coach for disabled is a part of guard’s coach. It never says that the disabled coach (SLRD or SRD) should be mandatory attached with a train of any specified category,” the source revealed.

Guard as TTE

Unlike other coaches, the Travel Ticket Examiner (TTE) is not the ticket examiner of the coach for disabled, but the guard.

The guard has to verify the train ticket of the disabled person and his escorting man, if any before entering the coach. Depending upon the type of disabilities, the rule differentiates disabled persons to travel with one escorting person or without.

Both the disabled and escorting person can avail tickets at concessional rates.

Inside the coach too, the toilet and other amenities should be set up in a manner convenient to the usage of disabled persons.

But the common allegation is that a few are aware of the amenities thus others making use of the facility meant for differently abled people.

The Railway authorities’ laxity in maintaining toilets and seats in good condition too invite the wrath of passengers.

Other commuters’ asylum

Often if the other compartments of the train are jam-packed, the commuters will barge into the coach meant for disabled, triggering a tussle with the differently abled passengers.

As the guard will be in the next coach, none will interfere and the disabled will find themselves at the receiving end.

Some unscrupulous passengers take advantage of the absence of ever roaming TTE in the coach and have a ticketless comfortable journey in the coach.

In Mangalore, the common refrain is that often railway and RPF personnel use this compartment as their private room for their non-interrupt journey while coming to duty and going after duty.

As the coach will be locked from inside, no one can see what is happening in the coach.

“I have many experiences of regular commuters misusing the coach for boozing and playing cards. Often the authorities concerned will also be a part of it,” said Nandan, a disabled who often goes to his native Payyannur from Mangalore. The difference of height between the platform and the coach also adds to the woes of differently abled.

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