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Rising complaints of lack of accessibility to battery-powered cars at Chennai stations raises questions

The battery powered cars at Chennai central railway station are not accessible to elderly and disabled people. In spite of the many complaints received, authorities have not taken any action and the situation does not seem to improve. People with disabilities who use stations across Tamil Nadu face similar problems and are struggling to move around inside the station in spite of these battery powered cars functioning at stations.

Accessing railway stations and trains are always a struggle for people with disabilities. In spite of framing of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPWD) nothing substantial has been implemented till date owing to which disabled people are unable to fully access trains or railway stations. Recently, complaints were raised on how battery powered cars at Chennai central, one of the biggest railway stations in the country, do now allow people with disabilities to access it. According to reports, battery powered car drivers simply refuse a disabled person which is clearly a violation of the law.

Though these battery powered cars have been deployed for reaching out to an elderly or disabled person, it is never available to them. Since there are no clear set of rules regarding these cars, drivers decide whom they would drive it around for inside the railway station. This is not an isolated case inside Dr MG Ramachandran central railway station, but inside many prominent stations across Tamil Nadu. Since the facility was recently made a paid one, only those who can afford it are provided the services.

Nanbu Rajan, General Secretary of TARATDAC that empowers and reaches out to people with disabilities in Tamil Nadu says that unless the drivers of these battery powered cars are sensitised about needs of people with disabilities, such complaints are going to prevail.

It is the mandatory duty of state government and Indian railways to provide accessible facilities for people with disabilities. These battery powered cars are not directly run by the railways and are instead sponsored by big corporate companies including its drivers. So this basically turns out to become an income generation process. Different fares are collected from different stations. Almost every day we get complaints. We have already taken it up with matter with authorities almost two years back. Nothing has been done till date-Nanbu Rajan, General Secretary, TARATDAC.

In Chennai central alone, there are five battery powered cars which can seat up to six people. Each person has to pay Rs 10 for the services. Moreover, elderly and disabled people are made to wait for a long time in order to access the cars. Drivers prefer to attend to families so that they can finish the trips easily.

Authorities believe that providing counselling to the drivers and giving them instructions on how to make these battery powered cars more disabled friendly will be of help. People from the disability community have come forward and urged officials to sensitize these drivers about the need to make stations more disabled friendly at the earliest.

"I have to travel every day in a train to my work place. In spite of the many challenges that I face regularly, I don't have any other option. I travel from Egmore station where they have a battery car facility inside the station. But they refuse to drop a disabled person citing many reasons", says Rafeeq Ahmed, a wheelchair user from Chennai.

ALSO READ: Tamil Nadu government promises to implement disability laws after protests

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