Indian Railways’ promise to launch disabled-friendly coaches on Modi’s birthday questioned
On the occasion of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday on 17 September, the Indian Railways’ had announced plans to launch exclusive coaches for people with disabilities in all the trains. Many disability rights activists are calling this move impractical. They also say this is not going to be implemented.
On 17 September, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned 65, came this grand announcement by the Indian Railways’, that every train would have a coach exclusively for disabled people. There was much cheer from many in the disabled community over the move to make at least one coach disabled-friendly and accessible. The announcement also mentioned that luggage platforms would be built keeping in mind the needs and requirements of people with different types of disabilities.
However, the policy has not been welcomed by all. One of them is TMN Deepak, Founder, 3 December Movement in Tamil Nadu, who says he would rather wait to see it implemented before reacting to the words.
The successful implementation of disabled-friendly railway coaches depends on the political will of the government, how the allocations are made, and the amount of money allotted for designing such coaches. Officials must clearly know the process of designing. They must consult people with disabilities. Railway officials must also strengthen the existing systems because most of them are inaccessible. – TMN Deepak, Founder, 3 December Movement.
Deepak also says he sees this as a gimmick. “All this looks rosy on paper. How can something like disabled-friendly railway coaches in all trains be implemented when the country is going through a huge economic crisis?”
Even today, after the Accessible India Campaign, most trains and even railway stations still remain inaccessible, something that has been raised across many cities by activists but nothing substantial has changed. This means people with disabilities are largely excluded from an essential means of transport.
“We need accessibility in every coach and not just one coach that is disabled-friendly”, points out Smita Sadasivam, a member of the Disability Rights Alliance of India. “The entry must also be accessible. Currently, even disabled coaches of Indian railways do not have that”.
Kerala activist Jomy Joseph says if this is implemented, it could be revolutionary but suggests genuine accessibility would mean that all coaches are made accessible. “It is indeed a welcome move because people with disabilities must be able to travel without hassles. But is reports are to be believed, the government is going to remove the existing coaches for disabled people. Honestly I feel that, it is best to make all coaches disabled-friendly”.