Manash Pratim Gohain | TNN |
NEW DELHI: Friday’s discrimination against a paraplegic flyer at IGI is not the first such incident affecting persons with disabilities (PwD) at the airports across India. Media reports of the past 10 years reveal two to three such cases annually. But disability rights activists claim the number is much higher as many incidents go unreported.
Javed Abidi, the convener of Disabled Rights Group, was forced in September 2015 to get off his wheelchair at the same airport by CISF. Despite repeated protests, CISF gave him the option of either complying with its rules or missing the flight.
The larger issue here, Abidi said, is that Air India, as well as other domestic airlines, do not have any protocol for boarding and deboarding such passengers. “People like Anita (Ghai of Ambedkar University) and me are merely loaded and offloaded. They neither have good-quality equipment (aisle chairs and wheelchairs) nor any training facility for their support staff. At least in Delhi, GMR should also be blamed for not providing any such training,” he said. “The so-called wheelchair service they run at the airport is extremely shoddy. If this airport was located in the US or Europe, GMR would be facing lawsuits worth crores of rupees,” he added.
Disability rights activist Jeeja Ghosh from Kolkata, who was deboarded twice because of her cerebral palsy, said the society needed to change its attitude towards the PwD. “The use of the term ‘divyang’ (Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address the community) instead of ‘viklaang’ is derogatory. Is the government on a charity mode? Nothing can ever change with this kind of attitude,” rued Ghosh.
In Ghai’s case, Abidi said, the airline has admitted its guilt by stating that the “wheelchair was provided to the passenger at the aircraft doorstep itself”. “How does a passenger who is a paraplegic-who can’t even stand, leave alone walk-go from her seat up to the doorstep,” he pointed out.
Terming the incident as “terribly unsafe and grossly inhuman”, Abidi asked why didn’t Air India arrange for an aisle chair. “They knew about her right from Dehradun. Did the captain and the cabin crew inform IGI in advance? If they did, someone at IGI must get sacked; and if not, action must be taken against the crew. Either way, Air India is wholly responsible.”