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Western Railways’ monsoon helpdesks for disabled people, elderly are a winning idea

The Western Railways' move to introduce a help desk facility across major stations in Mumbai for elderly and disabled people has won it many fans. Called Western Railways' Monsoon Service, it is being offered at seven stations and there are plans to extend it to more.

A regular commuter on the Mumbai local trains, Maharashtra wheelchair basketball player Nisha Gupta was delighted when a Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel approached her at Borivali station asking her if she needed help. Mumbai stations are chaotic for everyone and as a wheelchair user, Nisha finds it even more so.

I saw an RPF personnel helping a senior citizen and they also asked if I required any help. This was the first time I was seeing this, and I was so happy that I won't be missing the train whether it is crowded or not because the RPF people where with me with helping me. - Nisha Gupta, Wheelchair basketball player

This is the first time that the Western Railways' (WR) has introduced a monsoon helpdesk with umbrellas and wheelchairs for senior citizens and people with disabilities. It is currently available at seven stations - Andheri, Bhayander, Bandra, Bandra Terminus, Mumbai Central, Borivali and Dadar and will be extended to other major stations. All these help desks are manned by RPF personnel.

Following the stampede at the Elphinstone railway station in 2017, where over 20 people were killed, the WR has formed a team to implement measures to control crowds.

"Worldwide community policing plays an important role in crowd control. We have about 130 community members helping us and this meant we had RPF personnel free to manage the helpdesks", said A K Singh, Principal Chief Security Commissioner, Western Railways' (WR) to the media.

The staff manning these helpdesks have been trained to handle people with disabilities and the elderly. So, if someone has mobility issues, they will be offered wheelchairs, or accompanied to the bus/auto stand. In stations that don't have lifts, the RPF personnel will accompany them to the platform and ensure they board the train. "We want the elderly and disabled people to feel we care for them" added a WR official.

80-year-old Shanti Shah is also happy with how these measures have enabled him to commute smoothly. Shah, who has mobility issues, finds it hard to use the foot over-bridge. "This service has made my life easier", he says,

Nisha says this is also a good way for wheelchair users to leam how to travel by train safely. To make the experience easier for all, she has these suggestions.

"We should remember to have total control of ourselves and the wheelchairs with us and instruct the person properly so they can help us the way we want to be helped, says Nisha. She adds that while getting into the train the person who is assisting must do the wheelie. "Also, since the front wheel tends to get stuck to the door, the person must be told how much wheelie needs to be done so we can board easily".

Additionally, while exiting the train, helpers must be informed to hold the handle of the wheelchair and pull the person out from the back".

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