In its reply to the RTI query filed by Jitendra Karelia, president of Disability Advocacy Group (DAG), asking the railway authorities to explain the term ‘advanced stage of pregnancy’, the reply stated: “While it is not mandatory to carry treatment papers, but in case of being challenged by handicapped passengers travelling in the handicapped coach or intending to board the same coach, any railway authority like TC, TTE, RPF inspectors or station master may demand some evidence from the pregnant woman commuter.”
Karelia, a disabled passenger, had filed an RTI query seeking explanation of the term ‘advanced stage of pregnancy’. “I was shocked when I received the reply from the railways saying that the pregnant women commuters should carry their pregnancy papers with them. I am just wondering which doctor gives certificate showing the exact month of pregnancy,” Karelia said.
Last year, after several reports were published in the media, including MiD DAY, regarding demands made by pregnant women that they should be allowed to commute in compartments reserved for handicapped passengers, the railways finally approved it. In the approval, railways said that pregnant women in their ‘advanced stage of pregnancy’ should be allowed to travel in compartments reserved for handicapped.
In a letter issued to the Western Railway (WR) and the Central Railway (CR) last year, the Railway Board had sanctioned the demand of pregnant women commuters, allowing them to travel in compartments reserved for handicapped passengers. The letter stated: “In suburban travel, the handicapped compartments have been earmarked for the travel of handicapped persons in EMU rakes. Public demands have been received to permit pregnant ladies in an advanced stage of pregnancy to be permitted to travel in handicapped compartments as in suburban travel, there is crowding in all the other compartments. During peak hours, there is not enough room even in the ladies first class compartments so that pregnant ladies can board and travel in the train comfortably.”
“I’ll look into the matter and if required, will explain what ‘advanced stage of pregnancy’ means,” V A Malegaonkar, CPRO, CR, said. His counterpart from Western Railway, Nitin David, said that the permission was granted keeping in mind commuters’ interest.