mid-day editorial: Care for the differently abled on trains

An American citizen residing in Mumbai has started an online signature campaign to ensure better facilities for specially-abled people on the trains. She demanded change while highlighting her own bad experiences - she was groped and assaulted by porters as they lifted her wheelchair into the train compartment. Her story makes for a horrifying read and underscores the vulnerability of the specially-abled, especially women, travelling on trains.

The lack of infrastructure for the specially abled is an unfortunate truth in our Railways. But the fact is, even our public institutions, offices and buildings do not have platforms or special washrooms for this segment. Our transport system too scores low in this space.

Though the Railways claims it is doing everything to enhance its infrastructure to suit the needs of people in this segment, it is evident that this change is coming about in an agonisingly slow pace.

Sadly, there have been numerous reports of differently abled women, or even visually impaired women, being molested in compartments assigned for them. It highlights the need for better security provisions for them. Cops should be deployed on platforms near these compartments at every station to dissuade miscreants from entering. Quick response to complaints is also required. Women constables should be around to help female commuters in the event that porters are hired.

But the onus also lies on every citizen to be more empathetic towards the specially abled - make way for them inside trains, step aside when they want to use the basin or washroom. Spending lakhs on adding speed to the fleet is meaningless if the basic necessities are not served to those contribute to the society in their own brave way.

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