Accessibility October 21, 2020
#NavratriGoodNews – NHAI reaches out to disabled war veteran, promises to address issues faced by disabled people
All of us are guilty of highlighting instances when officials or the administration get things wrong. There are also many times when they do get it right. The response of the National Highways Authority of India to disabled war veteran Major D P Singh’s complaint is such an example. That’s our #StoryOfTheWeek.
A few weeks ago, Newz Hook reported how blade runner Major D P Singh was made to run around during the coronavirus pandemic for a FASTag card by National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) staff. This was despite possessing the required documents.
FASTag cards are issued by NHAI to vehicle owners with disabilities to relieve them of having to verify their disability status at toll plazas. It also exempts them from paying toll tax on NHAI-operated highways.
Major Singh was disabled in the right leg in 1999 during the Kargil War. After following due diligence, he had a FASTag issued previously. However, he was asked to go through the tedious paperwork again after his name was dropped from the exempted persons list.
NHA responds to social media posts
Frustrated after he was made to run around, Major Singh took Twitter to highlight how this was unfair to him and the disabled community at large.
His words clearly struck a chord. Major Singh has been issued a FASTag card since then. Senior NHAI officials will also meet with him soon to discuss ways to smoothen the FASTag process for persons with disabilities overall.
Arun Bothra, an IPS officer, saw my posts and reached out to me and connected me to Ajay Kumar Mishra, General Manager, NHAI. Mr Mishra was very empathetic and apologised for what happened and a FASTag was issued to me. I am in touch with him and will be meeting him soon to discuss steps to make this exercise hassle free for people with disabilities. – Major D P Singh, Kargil War veteran
Major Singh also shared this video on Twitter that shows him driving through a toll gate with his card.
NHAI to consider easing process
He says he has done this to highlight the responsive side of the administration. “The trend is to only look at the negative side and we don’t want to highlight the good part. That’s why I tweeted about the NHAI response along with the video”.
Major Singh plans to suggest two steps to ease the process.
“The challenge here is that the category of exempted vehicles is made mostly of VIPs. People with disabilities make up a very small part”, he explains. “While VIPs get FASTag cards delivered to their doorstep, people with disabilities are not even aware of how and what to do”.
Two immediate steps that could ease the process he says are – One, to go back to the easier system of allowing banks to issue FASTag cards to people with disabilities. “Access to banks is far easier for the community”, says
The other suggestion to make is to sensitise NHAI officials and staff manning the toll gates about people with disabilities.
”This will help ensure that when a disabled person is passing through their documents are processed quickly. There should be no compromise on the process set down”.
All this, he points out, fans in line with the stated mission of the Government of India’s flagship Accessible India Campaign. His aim is to set the process rolling before he shifts base to Chandigarh.
Watch in Sign Language
- Bias, accessibility issues among key barriers facing India’s deaf community in getting driving license, finds study