A wheelchair-bound young woman from the city has launched an online campaign seeking “disabled-friendly” measures in Indian railways. Virali Modi, the first runner-up at the Miss Wheelchair India contest in 2014, has put up an online petition on change.org. Her plea has even caught the attention of Union Minister Maneka Gandhi, who has requested Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu to make required changes on “mission mode”. The petition has so far found 94,210 supporters.
Virali, who wanted to become a model and actor but lost her legs due to malaria in 2006, has recounted her ordeal while travelling in trains. In the petition, she says, “I’ve been groped and manhandled three separate times by porters. They were helping me board the train because Indian trains are not wheelchair accessible. I am a disabled woman living in Mumbai who loves to travel.”
“I have had to wear a diaper, because I couldn’t use the train bathroom. And when I needed to change that diaper, I had no privacy and had to wait for hours for the lights to go off at night…The railways treat the disabled as a piece of luggage. This needs to stop!”
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“According to The Disability Rights bill, there need to be facilities available for those with disabilities. The Railway Ministry has been talking of making trains disabled friendly but in reality, we are still humiliated every single time because of poor implementation,” she said in the plea.
Virali has also put forth the suggestions which need to be implemented to make Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) successful.
“Accessible bathrooms with proper space inside, clean and higher toilets, low sinks, accessible coaches in all trains, curtains around the berths to change and Proper infrastructure to cross railroads if needed to change platforms are the basic facilities that a disabled needs,” she has written.
She said that besides these infrastructure related demands, I also want an attitudinal shift in the way the disabled are treated.
A disability rights activist and a motivational speaker, Virali, who is currently in Pennsylvania, told PTI over phone, “With the support, I want to meet Prime Minister and Railway Minister to apprise them about the difficulties faced by disabled on a daily basis.”
Responding to her petition, Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi said, “…The Ministry of Railways under the leadership of Suresh Prabhu ji has been conscious of this issue. However, keeping in view the desirability of facilitating comfortable travel for disabled persons, I am writing to Suresh Prabhu ji to request him to take up the required changes in mission mode.”