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Citizen activism pays off, gurdwara in East Delhi takes steps to make worship accessible for all

February 11, 2019

In our #Good News Story, comes this story about a gurdwara in Delhi, where sustained activism on the part of a group of determined residents has led the local gurdwara to make its venue accessible.

Access to places of worship for all is guaranteed not only under the Indian Constitution but also under the RPWD Act 2016 and the

However, the reality is that many religious sites across India, even well-known ones, discriminate when it comes to people with disabilities. Either the facilities do not exist or are followed in a halfhearted manner.

Which makes this story of citizen activism from Delhi especially satisfying to report especially at the start of the week. It's a story we bring to you from East Delhi where the main gurdwara, Pandav Nagar Gurdwara has set in place facilities that will make worship accessible to people with locomotor disabilities.

The credit for this goes to disability rights activist Kajal Sharma.

I am a wheelchair user and have grown up in this neighborhood. All these years I could never enter the gurdwara because there is no wheelchair access. I would stand outside the gate, offer my prayers and leave, which really felt awful. Even the ground floor area where there is a large space was not accessible because there were just stairs leading to it. This is also the case with a temple in the area. I wanted to do something about this. - Kajal Sharma, Disability rights activist

With the support of her brother Parul Sharma, an accessibility consultant, Sharma started petitioning the local gurdwara authorities. What gave their campaign momentum was the push from the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, T D Dhariyal in 2018 asking all districts in Delhi to conduct an audit of places of worship and submit a compliance report on their disabled-friendly initiatives.

Gurdwara authorities decided to take note and have set in place several measures to make the venue accessible.

"We have an e-rickshaw service to transport people with disabilities from their doorstep to the gurdwara and back", says Sardar Mangal Singh, who is a former member of the Delhi Gurdwara Committee. This is a free service.

A ramp has also been built along with a chairlift, similar to the facility at the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, adds Singh. "At present it can take only one person and we have started constructing another one that can accommodate more people".

The new measures have seen a sizeable increase in the number of visitors to the gurdwara. "Many people who could not visit earlier have started coming now", says Singh. "This is helping people with disabilities as well as the elderly".

The accessibility infrastructure will be reviewed on a periodic basis and upgraded.

"This is a major achievement for people with disabilities, especially those with locomotor disabilities", believes Sharma. "This will enable them to come out, participate and be more visible. And this is not just about disabled people but also the elderly. This is their fundamental right, what is rightfully due to them".

The disabled community here is not resting on this victory alone. Next on their radar is the Shri Radha Krishna Sanatan Dharma Temple which has no ramp or other measures in place for people with disabilities. Given their determination, that is bound to change too.

ALSO READ:Colours of Dussehra turn dim for this wheelchair user in Delhi due to lack of accessible facilities

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