In a country that has the world’s second-largest population out of which more than 26.8 million people are specially-abled, what is the average quality of life that the country has to provide to this section of its citizen?
The airports and the metro may be disabled friendly, but what about the more mass-based means of transport for the greater distances, the railways?
There are no ramps at most railway stations. As per various reports, special seats and electric cars, restrooms and water taps for the differently-abled are to be made available at travel stops, and other public spaces.
However, the government, for years now, has just been “talking” about making buildings, public transports and other infrastructures easily available to the “divyang”, but much like the “acche din”, we haven’t really witnessed this.
The Disabilities Bill/Movement was passed in the parliament in 2016, with one of its recommendations being to set a deadline for building barrier-free access to public spaces and transports.
The Accessible India Campaign of the government had undertaken to make 50% of the public buildings and transports fully disabled-friendly by July 2018. However, it’s the end of May, and all we see is a 3-5% change.
What’s more, sexual harassment is even more on the surface for the disabled, with the porters (who help them board trains) and other “helpers” taking pitiless advantage of them.
Meet Virali Modi, a young girl of 25 from Mumbai, who met with an accident at the age of 13, and has been differently-abled ever since. What makes her different is her passion for travel.
“I’ve been groped and manhandled three separate times by porters. They were helping me board the train because Indian trains are not wheelchair accessible.”, says Virali. “I didn’t say anything, I was scared he would drop me.”
Virali has since started a petition for change, signed by over 60,000 people, and a campaign #MyTrainToo, for making travel-friendly and bother-free for the disabled. India’s first disabled-friendly railway station, Kerala’s Ernakulam, owes full credit to this wonderful lady.
“HEALTH SECTOR” KEPT UNDER THE STATE
Disability is primarily of two kinds, one where the person is born disabled, in which case the reason lack of care given to pregnant mothers, and the second case is when the person becomes disabled (physically or mentally) during their lifetime, in which case the reason is the poor medical facilities available.
In both cases, the problem lies in the inadequate allocation of funds and attention given to the “health” sector. Again, the Constitution of India has kept “health” as a state subject, often leading to health being deemed as a “secondary” issue.
For making India disabled- friendly, “Health” must be given due importance, attention and adequate allocation of funds. This will not only reduce further disabilities but will also lead to better medical conditions of the ones already disabled
Apart from public transport and buildings, tourist destinations, too, must be given special attention so as to make India truly “disabled-friendly”. To think out of the customary domains of defense, education, economic well-being, and more towards such diverse (yet highly vital) social issues, would, in fact, bring out the best of India.
IMAGE SOURCES: Google Images