A group of disabled people who are members of the Federation of Tamil Nadu Differently Abled Persons on Wednesday squatted inside the Southern Railway headquarters to press their demands for better facilities and response from the authorities to complaints filed by them.

Nearly 250 persons participated in the sit-in protest that began in the morning and went on till late into the night at the office in Park Town. Among their primary demands, the protesters called for authorities to ensure the seats earmarked for them in trains are handed out on a priority basis, and other passengers who occupied them be asked to vacate them. They also said the parking space allotted to them at the Railway stations were invariably occupied by others. They charged that often free services for the disabled, including wheelchair and battery-operated cars, were not readily available.

Though the officials attempted to pacify them, the protesters demanded an assurance from the authorities in writing..

The federation’s president T.M.N. Deepak alleged that other passengers often denied access to physically challenged commuters. Though representations had been made to officials of Southern Railway during the past six years, no action had been taken to ensure the facilities earmarked for them were rendered accessible, he said.

He added that the protest would be intensified if their demands were not met.

Members also charged that they often do not find parking space for their vehicles as others, including Railway staff members, used the space allotted for persons with disabilities.

M. Lalithambigai, president of State Forum For Rights of All Women with Disabilities, said there was no safety for women commuters with disabilities in stations and train compartments. She charged that RPF personnel did not respond to their complaints.

P. Simmachandran, the federation’s state general secretary, said disabled persons could not access facilities such as battery-operated cars and wheelchairs without offering a bribe to Railway staff members. The facilities are listed as free services by the Southern Railway.

Officials of Southern Railway said G. Narayanan, assistant general manager, had also held discussion with the protestors and assured them that action would be taken on the demands. A decision would be taken after discussing the matter with other officials concerned, they added.

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