It was to meet the commuting needs of the differently-abled, like Nitin (name changed) who is a wheel-chair user and resides in Vikaspuri in West Delhi, that low floor buses in Delhi were specially designed by a team of IIT-Delhi, Tata Motors and NGO Samarthyam. But with their drivers and conductors often not bothering to stop for the disabled and those in need of assistance, the entire exercise has been left redundant after thousands of crores have been spent on procuring these new vehicles.
Nitin recently complained that it has become a regular feature for Delhi Transport Corporation buses not to stop for a wheel-chair user like him. “I am a wheel-chair user and I prefer going to work by a DTC low floor bus. I travel from Gurdwara Bus Stop, near Oxford School, Vikaspuri, to Uttam Nagar Bus terminal and back. I take bus route no. 883 but mostly the bus does not stop.”
On the reason for this Nitin says: “They do not stop at the thought of having to open the slope (ramp) of the bus, and this has happened every time I am alone.”
He went on to narrate how on July 22 and 26 he had to return home as the buses did not stop for him.
On July 22, it happened around 5 p.m. When he requested the conductor of the bus – DL-1P-C-X713 – to open the ramp so that he could board the bus on his motorised wheel-chair, he got the shock of his life.
“The conductor first used very abusive language and shouted at me and without opening the ramp told me to board the bus on my own. When I said I could not board the bus like that, he again used very abusive language, came out of the bus in anger and pulled my hand. He forced me to stand, but I cannot. He responded rudely and still holding on to me, pulled me saying ‘then why do you go for work and why can’t you sit at home’.”
Though some passengers tried to convince the conductor to help Nitin, he insisted that ultimately he had to give up on the idea of travelling that day.
Four days later, it was another bus – DL-1P-C-7361 – on the same route. But the time was different – 9 a.m. – and so was the conductor’s response: he did not even bother to get off the bus and help Nitin. “He simply blew the whistle and the bus left without me.”
Anjlee Agarwal of Samarthyam, who had worked on the design of the new buses, is aghast at the callous attitude of DTC towards the disabled.
“Low floor buses are the only accessible mode of public transportation available near your home. Their six prototypes were audited for inclusion of needs of persons with diverse disabilities, especially wheel-chair users,” she said. Noting that these buses have a folding hinged ramp, to merge the vertical gap of 390 mm, which can be opened by the conductor in seconds, Ms. Agarwal said there is also the provision of a designated wheel-chair space inside the bus, stop request button and belt restraint for the safety of the passenger with disability.
“Delhi is the only State in the country which has set an example in promoting accessible low floor buses. However, the purpose of having accessible features in low floor buses is defeated if the attitudinal barriers of conductors and drivers poses a threat to passengers with disabilities and they are not taken on board,” she said, demanding that “it is imperative that the drivers and conductors be strictly instructed to comply with the order and non-compliance be looked into in terms of punitive action/ cancellation of their permit/ licence.”