Taking a strong view against the off-loading of a differently-abled 42-year-old female passenger from a Spicejet flight at Kolkata airport this past Sunday, disability rights organisations have criticised the action and demanded an apology from the airline.
The Society for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies (SDRS) came out in support of Union Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment Mukul Wasnik's demand for a probe into the matter by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. The Minister had written to Civil Aviation Secretary Nazim Zaidi, asking for a thorough probe into the incident and demanding that those found guilty be punished.
The passenger Jeeja Ghosh is a teacher at Kolkata-based Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy, and was off-loaded from Spicejet flight by the pilot at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata, on Sunday.
The SDRS agreed with Mr. Wasnik, calling the incident “a serious violation of the right of persons with disabilities and also the carriage by air of persons with disabilities and persons with reduced mobility rules of 2008”.
According to Jindal Saw, managing director Sminu Jindal, what happened with Ms. Ghosh is not an isolated incident. She earlier faced a similar situation on another airline. “This is not the first time that a disabled person has been harassed by airlines. It's very astonishing that even after so long, the airlines still follow the same procedure and are insensitive towards disabled people. It is very outrageous and inhuman. I share a similar experience with the Jet Airways. In 2008, during my flight to Bangkok, I was asked either to sign an indemnity bond or deplane. And the recent incident with Ms. Ghosh, who was asked to boot off by the pilot thinking that she was mentally disabled, again highlights airlines' apathetic attitude towards disabled passengers,” said Ms. Jindal.
Chairman of the working group on disability for 11th Plan G. N. Karna said: “The absence of ambulifts in most airports makes the operators provide stairs for passengers to embark, requiring people in wheelchairs to be physically lifted. The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act (1995) requires the air transport sector to adopt measures to ease the access to disabled people to aircrafts, airports and toilets. There is greater imperativeness for making ramps compulsory in all airlines to facilitate boarding of persons with physical disabilities.”