India: Southern Railway not Disabled-Friendly in Berth Allocation

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CHENNAI, 25 Jan: Southern Railway may have ramps and wheelchairs for disabled passengers at major stations, but it is not disabled-friendly when it comes to allotting berths for such passengers.


There have been complaints that in many instances lower berths were not allotted to disabled passengers even if reservation was done much in advance. Senior citizens too faced the problem.

"I had booked a ticket for a relative who is disabled people. But, they did not allot a lower berth even after I presented a medical certificate showing that the passenger was disabled and that she would not be able to climb up to any other berth," said Manoj Joy, a resident of Velachery.

"The staff at the counter told me to exchange the berth with some other passenger as it was difficult to allot a lower berth because all berths were occupied. I have often seen young people being allotted lower berths, while senior citizens are given upper or middle berths. Some people agree to exchange their berth, but not everyone is so compassionate," said S Ramachandran, a senior citizen and a frequent traveller by train.

Manoj Joy had to cancel his ticket and book again twice before he got a lower berth on a different date. K Gopinath, member, TN Welfare Board for Disabled feels the number of berths allotted for disabled people is inadequate. "The number of people travelling by train has increased, but the allocation for disabled people has not gone up proportionately," he said.

Activists and associations working for the rights of disabled people had protested when the railway converted a general compartment meant for disabled people into a reserved compartment recently. Shanthi, a Chennai resident who was accompanying Adhishwer Ram, a child with cerebral palsy from the city to Coimbatore by West Coast Express on confirmed reserved tickets recently had a tough time due to overcrowding in the coach meant exclusively for disabled people, in October. The compartment meant to accommodate two disabled persons and their escorts had over 60 people.

Southern Railway chief public relations officer VJ Accamma said that lower berths are allotted to disabled people and also senior citizens depending on availability. "Every train has four berths for disabled people in the portion near the guard's cabin. Apart from this, we have not allocated any particular number of lower berths for senior citizens or disabled in other coaches. Passengers can always make a last minute request for lower berth. We have given some of the lower berths meant for emergency quota for senior citizens in the last minute," she said.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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