Mumbai: Ambarnath and Badlapur far from disabled friendly

With the Kulgaon-Badalpur Municipal Council, which won an award for work in creation of a barrier-free environment for people with disabilities, and the Ambarnath Municipal Council heading for polls on April 22, mid-day takes a look at the barriers that still exist in these places

Making up barely 2.21% of the country’s population as per the 2011 census, people with disabilities (PWDs), barring the occasional lip service, are not very high up on any politician’s agenda when the polls draw near.

Karupamala is all praise for the broad roads in her area and the helpful nature of local residents. Pics/Sameer Markande
Karupamala is all praise for the broad roads in her area and the helpful nature of local residents. Pics/Sameer Markande

The situation is a little different, however, in the Kulgaon-Badlapur Municipal Council (KBMC) elections, as the municipality has to live up to the National Award for Outstanding Work in the Creation of Barrier-Free Environment for Persons with Disabilities, which it received from the President of India in 2003.

While Kiran Chaure feels a skywalk on the eastern end of Ambarnath station will help both PWDs and others, Ram Ghodke (right) pointed out that the roads in some areas in Badlapur need to be wider. Both of them are visually impaired
While Kiran Chaure feels a skywalk on the eastern end of Ambarnath station will help both PWDs and others, Ram Ghodke (right) pointed out that the roads in some areas in Badlapur need to be wider. Both of them are visually impaired

With KBMC and the neighbouring Ambarnath Municipal Council headed to the polls on April 22, mid-day speaks to a few PWDs in the areas to find out whether the disabled are truly living in a barrier-free environment.

Anil Chalke from Badlapur wants ramps and railings installed at railway stations
Anil Chalke from Badlapur wants ramps and railings installed at railway stations

Infra woes
Asked about the problems they face, Mansaram and Rekha Thackeray, a visually impaired couple from Vangni near Badlapur, said that there is no railway bridge in Vangni west and people are forced to cross the railway line. While this puts everyone at risk, the danger is higher for people like them, who cannot see trains approaching.

Kiran Chaure, a visually impaired from Ambarnath said there is a need for a skywalk in Ambarnath East like the one in Ambarnath west. There are many hawkers right outside the eastern end of the station and no footpaths on both sides, which causes problems for the disabled people to move around.

He also said that there are no public toilets at Badlapur station and only one at Ambarnath station. “There can’t be smart cities without basic public amenities,” said Chaure, adding that there are no barricades on the side of the overpasses on the nullahs in the area, which is risky not only for blind people, but also for people who can see, especially in the night.

Chaure, however, was all praise for the under-construction platforms at Ambarnath station, which have tactile markings near the edge. He suggested that just like there is a special railway counter for PWDs and senior citizens, similar counters should be set up for paying taxes to the local municipal bodies, paying electricity bills etc.

Ram Ghodke from Badlapur, who is visually impaired, said some of the roads in the area are very narrow and have no dividers, which makes it difficult when people like him are being escorted, as two people can’t walk side-by-side without the danger of being knocked down by vehicles.

People power
Karupamala, a visually impaired woman from the Gaon Devi area in Badlapur, however, said that she finds no problems as such when it comes to travelling and moving around. She said she is happy with the broad roads in her area and the helpful nature of auto-drivers in Badlapur. She said PWDs receive good treatment and help from the local residents.

Ramp up
Anil Chalke, a physically disabled person from Badlapur, said that it would be very useful for people like him if a ramp is constructed at the station to make it wheelchair-friendly. “There were beepers installed near the government hospital. Ramps and railings were also installed for the physically challenged there, then why not do it at railway stations?” he asked, adding that he intends to fight for this demand.

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