At the New Delhi railway station, for instance, 60-year-old Tara Devi, who suffers from joint pains, waited on her walker for half-hour in the hot son as her son went hunting for a wheelchair. Sunheri Devi, 73, had a similar agonizing experience, being carried in his arms by her son to the platform.
"My mother lost a leg recently. Besides, she is too old to walk up the stairs. So, I carried her to the platform," said son Om Prakash. Asked if he knew about wheelchairs or golf carts provided by the station for free, Prakash shook his head. The response was similar in most spot interviews TOI conducted of persons with some sort of disability.
Clearly, while railway authorities say they have made arrangements for wheelchairs and golf carts at some stations, most passengers haven't heard about it yet. Those who have, find it impractical and use it only as a last resort.
Of the major railway stations in Delhi, only Anand Vihar has been designed with a functional ramp to take the wheelchair-bound across the platforms. At Hazrat Nizamuddin, Old Delhi or New Delhi stations, the disabled have to be ferried to the end of a platform where goods are ferried on hand carts, and stand in queue with cart-loaders waiting for passing trains to give way in order to change platforms.
"The platforms are totally unapproachable by senior citizens and it's about time someone decided to do something about it. It's really a shame for the national capital to have an unapproachable platform for boarding important trains," said senior citizen Sudipta Maitra, IBM's former manager of business operations, who also has a disability.
Dr Satendra Singh, an assistant professor of physiology at GTB hospital, himself afflicted with polio, says the only way to help is to install lifts and reserve escalators for the disabled.
"Railways goes on installing escalators at stations but for someone like me who uses calipers, escalators don't work because people like me tend to lose balance, as I have in the past. Lifts, reserved for the disabled, as done in the Delhi Metro, would make life so much simpler for us. That's what I hope gets done some time in the forseeable future," said Singh.
Old Delhi station happens to have a pair of lifts leading to waiting halls. But both have been in a state of disrepair for the past three years.
"We have been trying to ensure that the journey becomes safe and comfortable for everyone. We have one golf cart and 20 wheelchairs at Old Delhi railway station, one golf cart and five wheelchairs at Nizamuddin station, four golf carts and 20 wheelchairs at New Delhi and four wheelchairs at Anand Vihar. Besides, we have other facilities such as separate queues for elderly," said a Northern railway spokesperson.
Clearly, the railways has to start making these facilities more accessible and user-friendly.
Source : TOI , 14th May 2014