Top berth or floor: Cruel deal for para-athlete
Suvarna Raj sought help from railway authorities, seeking allotment of a lower berth in the compartment reserved for disabled. However, railway officials allegedly turned down her request citing non-availability of berths. Finally, Raj chose to lie down on the floor of the compartment.
Raj claimed she had indicated that she was disabled while booking the ticket. She was allotted a berth in the coach number GD-2, reserved for disabled passengers. However, when she boarded the coach, she realised that it was an upper berth.
“I tried contacting the coach attendant and the TTE, asking for an alternative seat, but I was told that I had to manage with whatever I had since the coach was full,” Raj told TOI. “I asked for a blanket, but I was denied that too. The attendant told me that the compartment has a fixed number of blankets, which had been allotted to passengers. I had paid the full fare. Still, I did not have a seat and had to lie down on the floor near the toilet.”
Raj suffers from 90% of disability as a result of polio infection at a younger age. In 2014, she participated in the Asian Para Games in South Korea and won two medals at the Thailand Para Table Tennis Open 2013.
She runs an organisation for disabled people and is currently working on ‘Accessible India Campaign‘, a flagship campaign by the ministry of social justice and empowerment for achieving universal accessibility for people with disabilities.