Going down Pune subways uphill task for disabled

Jul 17, 2012, 06:48 IST | Sukirt D. Gumaste

Despite central law requiring creation of barrier-free environment for physically challenged people at all public infrastructural facilities, MiD DAY finds 5 important subways in Pune remain inaccessible to disabled people for one reason or another, from absence of ramps, handrails and appropriate signage to poor lighting and maintenance

A central government act says a barrier-free environment should be created for physically disabled people at all infrastructure facilities used by the public, but the PMC is ignoring the law by not providing any facilities for the disabled at the foot under bridges, or subways, for pedestrians.

It’s a big struggle: Pedestrian subways in the city are difficult to use for the disabled, the very people who need them the most to cross roads. Pic/Krunal Gosavi

MiD DAY conducted an in-depth survey of five important subways in the city, at Shaniwarwada, Deccan, JM Road, Bundgarden and Pune station, and observed that the subways were inaccessible to disabled people because of the presence of many steps, absence of ramps and handrails, poor lighting or general lack of maintenance.

The Central Public Works Department (CPWD), Ministry of Urban Affairs and Employment, had issued detailed guidelines and space standards for the creation of a barrier-free environment for disabled and elderly people in 1995. The guidelines state that governments and local authorities shall, within the limits of their economic capacity and development, provide curb cuts and slopes in pavements and subways for easy access of wheelchair users and devise symbols and warning signals at appropriate places.

“Subways are built for the safety of pedestrians from the heavy congestion of the traffic, but government authorities are ignorant about disabled persons. Facilities like ramps, proper railings can be built in very limited funds. The Centre’s guidelines make it mandatory to provide disabled-friendly facilities. Despite this, local bodies and the state government are not concerned, for which apathy is the only reason,” Rahul Deshmukh, founder president, National Association for the Welfare of Physically Challenged, said.

The state government has given the responsibility of ensuring the rights of disabled persons to the social welfare department. The department has the right to take suo moto cognizance against any government department or local body for not following the CPWD guidelines. “This department is completely passive and not doing anything for the rights of the disabled,” social activist Advocate Asim Sarode said. “Our infrastructure is very frustrating for the disabled. The authorities should conduct proper surveys to find the loopholes in the infrastructure and report these to the government.” 

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