Over 100 people with disabilities staged an hour-long protest outside Beach Station on Monday, demanding that Southern Railway authorities ensure their safety on trains.
The protesters listed a range of issues that made it difficult for them to travel by trains, including the absence of announcements about the position of coaches, harassment in issuing tickets under the disability concession and misuse of the special coach for the disabled by Railway employees and ex-servicemen.
The special coach, meant exclusively for those with disabilities, is sometime attached next to the engine, or at other times, before the guard van. Since there is no prior information about this, disabled passengers do not know where to go.
D. Elumalai, a visually challenged person said, “We have to make our way by trial and error, and on several occasions I have missed the train. We also have to deal with persons without disabilities who insist on travelling in the special coach.Sometimes even the guard recommends their case.”
Matters are made worse when such passengers resort to drinking. Some such passengers not only occupy the seats, but also take over the berths, he said.
Physically challenged persons say they have a tough time loading their tricycles on to the train. If the special coach is at the end of the train, then the luggage van is usually attached near the engine. Since there is no provision to load the tricycle into the special coaches and it is mandatory for them to be put in the luggage van, people have to go back and forth between the two coaches. Sometimes, the train leaves the station before the passenger can unload the tricycle, they said.
Railway authorities must make provision to allow for loading of foldable wheelchairs in the special coach, said a protester. H. Abdul Najimudeen, who is physically challenged, said the staff at the ticket counter staff harassed them if the photocopy of the concession form was either old or torn. There had been occasions when he had missed a train because the staff wanted him to get a fresh photocopy of his ID, he said.
The protesters later met Southern Railway’s general manager and submitted their petition.