The Tamil Nadu Association for Rights of All Types of Differently-Abled and Caregivers (TARATDAC) protested across the state on August 11, demanding that the Railways restore concessions for differently-abled persons in all the trains.
The organisation also demanded that Indian Railways and the Government of India restore the original names of the trains and drop the special status of the trains introduced after the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 8,000 differently-abled persons held protests in front of 72 state and central offices demanding that their rights be restored.The organisation also accused the railways of curtailing the free movement of the differently-abled by not having necessary facilities in a functional state at railway stations. The protesters also flayed policies of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government which led to the privatisation of the railways and increasing fuel prices.
‘REMOVE SPECIAL STATUS FOR TRAINS
The Indian Railways has been operating most of its regular trains under the ‘special’ category after the unlock process began post the first wave of the pandemic. A number of express and passenger trains and concessions were dropped. “We don't understand what is so special about these trains”, asked S.Namburajan, state general secretary of TARATDAC.
“Most of the trains are operated as special trains while a few are called super-specials. There is no concession for senior citizens and differently-abled persons, leaving them with no option but to pay the full fare. This amounts to curtailing the free movement of the differently abled persons,” he added.
Image Courtesy: N B Bennet Raj
Commenting on the other facilities which have changed, Namburajan said that the coaches earmarked for the differently-abled persons are either removed or locked.
“Not all differently-abled persons can board normal coaches. The sufferings of the differently-abled are enormous, given their limitation to move. The railways must ensure that the special coaches are operated at the earliest,” Namburajan said.
‘GOVT BETRAYING DIFFERENTLY ABLED’
The organisation alleged that basic facilities – escalators, lifts, electric cars and wheelchairs – werer being denied in stations. “All these facilities bear an ‘out of service’ notice in most of the railway stations. It is the duty of the Government of India to ensure such facilities are ensured for the differently-abled and ensure it fulfills its commitment to international treaties,” said Namburajan.
TARATDAC cited the commitment made by the Government of India when it signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on Rights Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Right of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act in 2016, intended towards fulfilling the rights of the differently-abled.
“There is not even a single railway station under Southern Railways which can be referred to as a model station for the differently-abled. From lack of parking facilities, access to free toilets in major railway stations, the differently-abled are put through untold hardships,” said Namburajan.
The increase in platform ticket fees has also been criticised, since differently-abled persons travelling alone need to take the support of another person to board the train.
‘ANNOUNCE SUBSIDY FOR FUEL’
Apart from restoring the rights of the differently-abled, the association is also seeking subsidised fuel.
“The union territories of Puducherry and Chandigarh have been ensuring 25 litres of petrol at 50% cost for differently-abled persons. This should be implemented across the country,” Namburajan said.
TARATDAC cited the reduction in revenue for the differently-abled and the increasing petrol prices as the reason for demanding such a scheme.
“Several differently-abled rely solely on pensions and aid from the government. It is difficult to travel from one place to another within that income. Such a subsidy will ensure unhindered movement to seek access to different facilities,” Namburajan added