February 15th, 2017
Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, has finally taken cognisance to the petition led by Virali Modi, a differently-abled rights activist, on change.org, that urges the government to implement several disabled-friendly reforms in the Indian Railways. Maneka Gandhi on Monday requested Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu to facilitate comfortable train travel for the disabled on a “mission mode”.
Virali Modi, a differently-abled woman herself, started a petition that has received 95,142 signatures for her cause so far.
“I am glad that the government is taking the step. A milestone will be set if the disabled-friendly measures are introduced on a large scale in the railways. It has happened because of the support of the people,” Virali said to The Logical Indian.
On February 9, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu tweeted in response to the petition, stating that he had taken note of it. He said that plans were already being discussed to make the railways disabled-friendly. He welcomed suggestions from the general public on the issue as well.
Have taken note.Already w’king on making our stations,trains Divyang friendly,hv made significant progress,lot is 2 be done.Any idea welcome https://t.co/Gg8BQYFm1w
— Suresh Prabhu (@sureshpprabhu) February 9, 2017
Virali and her petition
Virali, a Mumbaikar, has been in her wheelchair for over a decade after she met with a severe accident when she was just 13. She fought her way out of a coma and kickstarted her new journey with positivity. Virali is now a motivational speaker, writer, and a differently-abled rights activists.
Her love for travel has taken her across India and abroad, but, she has been the victim of several harrowing experiences in her own city, Mumbai.
She has been groped and manhandled on three separate occasions in the Mumbai Central railway station.
“In one instance, the coolies were misbehaving with me, and everyone watched it with sympathy and pity. Most of the people have sympathy for the differently-abled people but don’t have the empathy,” Virali said.
Besides, she was discontent with the existing facilities for the differently-abled in the railways. There is not space to move freely, no privacy, and unfriendly toilet facilities.
Image Source: thehindu
“Whenever I complained, people used to tell me to shift to the compartment for the physically-challenged. But, even there I found the ramps were broken and there was no provision for us. My friends told me that at night drunk men are found travelling in the physically-challenged compartments of Mumbai local trains,” she added.
In January, Virali wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bring the woes of the differently-abled to his notice.
On Monday, her issues were taken up by Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi who promised to look into the matter along with Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.
In her petition, Virali requested the following:
- Accessible bathrooms with proper space inside the bathroom, clean and higher toilets, low sinks to wash hands easily.
- Accessible coaches for the disabled in all trains, ideally one for each class. Enough space between berths so it is easy to fit a standard size wheelchair.
- Curtains around the berths for when to change and for privacy.
- Proper infrastructure to cross railroads if there is a need to change platforms.
Virali believes that an able-bodied person won’t be able to recognise all the problems faced by a differently-abled person. So she wants to be a part of the mission where she can give inputs to the government to change the existing system.
The Logical Indian appreciates Virali’s efforts to bring about a change for the welfare of differently-abled people in the country. We hope the government expedites the process to help the lakhs of differently-abled people travel more comfortably in the country.
Read More about Virali’s story: My Story: They’d Pull The Plug From My Ventilator To Let Me Die, If I Didn’t Show Any Improvements On My Birthday