If you are young and fit, run up the clean overbridge stairs, sprint on the spic-and-span platform premises and buy a lifestyle magazine or dry fruits. If disabled or an elderly, look around in despair.
Well-maintained Tatanagar, Chakradharpur railway division’s only A-category station and an important junction, is not an equal-opportunity platform, pun intended.
It has a ramp on just one of its five platforms. It has two wheelchairs, donated by Rotary Club of Jamshedpur some six months ago, a May I Help You kiosk and a special ticket counter.
The ticket counter dedicated to the disabled with a button alert started earlier this year and is perhaps the lone saving grace. The May I Help You counter, for all its good intentions, is helpless, because the station has only two wheelchairs and a ramp on platform No. 1.
Right now, the disabled, the elderly and patients fight for the two wheelchairs. To go from one 300-metre-long platform to another, 25 metres away, they need to be bumpily carted on wheelchairs on approach ways over tracks or under the abandoned road overbridge.
The station, with 86 trains and 60,000-plus footfall a day, sees 100 disabled passengers according to Zonal Railway Users’ Consultative Committee (ZRUCC) estimates.
No one has counted the number of elderly passengers — the senior citizens can be anything from a sprightly 60 years old to a doddering 90 — but their figure is likely to run in thousands.
“My 66-year-old wife Salhari Devi, a sciatica patient, needs a wheelchair. Before boarding Rajdhani Express, we waited for half an hour near the station superintendent’s office for a wheelchair. Then we paid a good sum to a porter to wheel my wife on the uneven road below the overbridge,” said retired Tata employee M.P. Singh.
Singh, 68, says when one is young, one doesn’t notice these things. “But now, I see the need for more ramps and wheelchairs,” he said.
Vivek Kumar of Jharkhand Viklang Manch, an outfit spearheading the cause of the physically challenged, said accessibility for disabled was enshrined under Persons With Disability Act 1995. “It is another matter that no one acts on the act,” he said.
From time to time, Indian Railways mentions ramps with railings for barrier-free entry, battery-operated cars or wheelchairs, parking lot, taps and toilets, non-slippery walkway, May I Help You and special ticket counters and even lift buttons in Braille.
Indian Railways divides stations in seven categories — A1, A, B, C, D, E and F — depending upon earnings that are an indicator of passenger traffic. A-lister Tatanagar chillingly shows what stations offer the disabled and the elderly.
The West is miles ahead. National Rail, UK, has lifts, ramps, wheelchairs, a system to book passenger assistance on platforms, mobility scooters and personalised digital alerts.
ZRUCC member and SCCI vice-president Suresh Sonthalia said they had written thrice to Tatanagar authorities on wheelchairs and ramps. “I will bring it up at the ZRUCC meeting at Calcutta’s Garden Reach on December 21,” he said.
His hopes may be a wash-out. Senior divisional commercial manager of Chakradharpur division K.N. Biswas ruled out plans for more ramps or wheelchairs.
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