Months after Indian Railways rejected a number of candidates for being visually challenged, the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) has directed Northern Railways to publish a revised merit list and appoint the candidates, who qualified on merit as well as under the disability quota.
Nearly 10,000 visually challenged candidates had reportedly appeared in the examination in November-December 2013 after the railways advertised for 7,386 vacancies. All of them were, however, issued rejection letters before the results were announced for being “100 per cent visually challenged”.
In protest, the applicants filed a petition in CAT, arguing that they are eligible and entitled to be considered for the posts, both on merit as well as under reservation for visually challenged persons.
Arguing for the applicants, lawyer S K Rungta – himself visually challenged – said the Northern Railways’ recruitment cell must file complete results, including the results of 100 per cent visually challenged candidates, so that their merit position could be ascertained.
Rungta and lawyer Pankaj Sinha urged the court to direct the Railway Board to consider appointing the petitioners and other visually challenged candidates.
The railways responded by saying that the vacancies were for people with “low vision” and that 100 per cent visually challenged persons cannot be hired for the posts.
The tribunal, however, directed Northern Railways and the Railway Board to publish the complete results within two months and appoint the qualified candidates.
Northern Railways spokesperson Neeraj Sharma refused to comment. “The matter is sub-judice, so we cannot comment. But the railways will take appropriate action after consulting its legal department,” he said.
National Federation of Blind vice-president Inder Singh said the appointments would give the visually challenged a chance to live with dignity.
Arun (38), who belongs to Bihar and is visually challenged since birth, said he prepared for two years for the railway exam.
“When this post was advertised in 2012, I started studying books in Braille and audio CDs. My exam was very good. Barring some questions,
I knew all the answers. So, when the rejection letters were issued, I was in for a rude shock,” Arun, who stays in a hostel for the visually challenged in Dakshinpuri, said.
His roommate Sonu (29) from Agra said since the basic qualification for the advertised posts were just matriculation pass, the syllabus was “quite easy”. “I am sure some visually challenged candidates scored more than the general candidates,” he said.
Uma Shanker (32), who hails from Bihar, lost his eyesight after a brief illness at age 10. He eventually came to Delhi and completed his schooling from Janta Adarsh Blind School in Sadiq Nagar, South Delhi.
“I want to be self-dependent. It’s a question of self-respect. Visually challenged people also have the intellect to share responsibility of the nation. I am single, my parents and siblings are doing well for themselves. I think the government just wants to create a situation, where the blind is enmeshed in litigation,” he said.