Differently-abled Kolkata youth starts petition after harrowing train journey

Feb 10, 2017, 08:44 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

After arduous train journey from Kolkata to Mumbai, differently-abled Howrah youth uploads an online petition to demand facilities in trains for travellers with disabilities

Physical disability be damned, Yash Sethiya is determined to see the world on his terms
Physical disability be damned, Yash Sethiya is determined to see the world on his terms

For Yash Sethiya (24), the personal is political. The resident of Howrah, West Bengal, has started a petition on Change.org, a global petition site that champions social and economic justice, asking for better accessibility for people with disabilities in trains. His decision was largely prompted by a challenging journey via train to Mumbai to watch British band Coldplay live in action last November.

Physical disability be damned Yash Sethiya is determined to see the world on his terms

An accident in Kota, Rajasthan, while preparing for the IIT-JEE, five years ago left Sethiya with permanent paraplegia from mid-chest and confined to the wheelchair. While struggling to put his life back together, the youngster found that the odds are always stacked against the disabled, more so in the Railways.

Challenges everywhere
Sethiya, who runs a YouTube channel and frequently takes the train to meet relatives scattered across the country, says the disabled rarely come into the equation in terms of accessibility - to railway stations, trains and toilets.

“The bogie for the disabled is mostly unclean and not air-conditioned. Some of us need to cool our bodies owing to our medical conditions,” he explains.

Besides, most stations do not have ramps or lifts, and often, the disabled have be carried on chairs into the coach and onto the seat. “This becomes difficult when other passengers are already trying to carry their luggage in,” says Sethiya.

And thinking about using the toilets in coaches is strictly a no-no. “They are so dirty that wheelchair users think twice before venturing in,” he says.

He points out that making reservations at ticket booking offices are no less a challenge for the disabled. “In the last four to five times, whenever I booked tickets, I got upper berths despite furnishing my disability certificate, specifying my needs, at the time of making the reservation.”

He recalls that in December last year, he and his family went on a trip to Kerala. After booking the tickets, the group of 11 found out that it was given all upper berths. Neither Sethiya’s disability certificate nor an uncle’s senior citizen quota was of any use. “The hardest part was to convince fellow passengers, when we boarded in the middle of the night, to exchange seats. Some were gracious enough and with some, we needed the help of the ticket checker,” reveals the youngster. During the return journey, too, the family faced problems getting lower berths.

Enough was enough
A particularly exasperating train journey made Sethiya determined to have things changed. He took the Howrah Mail to Mumbai to catch British rock band Coldplay’s performance at the Global Citizen Festival in November last year. Again, despite applying for a ticket under the disabled category, he was given an upper berth to and from Mumbai.

By mid-December, his resolve grew and put up a petition on Change.org, titled Proper Seats and Accessibility for the Differently Abled People inside Trains in India, requesting Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s intervention in addressing the needs of disabled persons. The petition is just 33 short of the 200 signatures needed for Change.org to send the petition to Prabhu.

“I know that Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu is very active on social media. And that’s why I’m seeking his direct intervention,” says Sethiya.

Nida Hasan, campaigns head, India, Change.org, hopes that the ministry of railways will take cognisance of the hardships the disabled face and act on it immediately.

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