As if there weren’t enough challenges already for people with disabilities at Andheri railway station, a newly opened eatery has given them more food for thought. The food plaza has usurped and beautified a ramp meant for handicapped persons, making it difficult to negotiate the space on wheelchairs or even with walking sticks.
The joint is located on the eastern side of the station, near the ticket counters. If associations for physically challenged persons are to be believed, despite several complaints to railway authorities no action has been taken in the matter. Jitendra Karelia, president of Disability Advocacy Group, said, “On the one hand side railways say that they will make things automatic, but are unconcerned about basic facilities. We are tired of airing our grievances. When confronted by us, railway authorities turn deaf and dumb. In fact they are not apathetic about our problems.”
Sandeep Silas, divisional manager, WR, inaugurated the food plaza on September 26, 2012. Questions had been raised over the high prices — a regular-sized onion, capsicum and tomato pizza with cheese will set you back by Rs 146, a single gulab jamun costs Rs 15, a chapati or puri comes for Rs 12, a plate of eight panipuris is priced at Rs 37 and you’ll have to pay Rs 49 for a plain dosa with chutney and sambhar.
Physically challenged people say they are unable to traverse the ramp because of the carpeting done by the food joint for its customers. T N Dubey, president, Naisargik Viklang Seva Sangh, claims he has already made several complaints to senior railway officials, including general manager of Western Railway.
“The space is reserved for people with disabilities. The food plaza management has illegally occupied the area and beautified it by spreading out a red carpet,” he said. Dasrath Kumar Chauhan says he now can’t use the ramp to get to the ticket windows. “My wheelchair cannot go over the rug that’s been put there,” he said. Sharat Chandrayan, chief PRO, WR, said, “We will ask IRCTC to take appropriate action against the food plaza, if it is misusing space reserved for physically challenged persons.”