Pop quiz: What is a wheelchair?
Ranchi’s answer: A wheelchair is a chair with wheels invented in the early 5th Century and used by Ranchi station employees to rest their bags or simply sit and fiddle with mobile phones
The A-category train terminal, where an electronic display board proudly mentions the availability of wheelchairs at the stationmaster’s chamber, is deceiving and unfriendly towards the differently abled who more often than not climb steep steps on crutches or even crawl to reach platforms.
While as many as eight wheelchairs rot in one corner of the said room, special passengers — who comprise around three per cent of the daily footfall of 3,000 at the station — are susceptible to fleecing by rogue porters because they are unable to carry both themselves and their luggage together.
“The wheelchairs are just for show. I have always had to climb stairs because the escalator too doesn’t work often,” said 24-year-old Hatia resident Raman Kumar who was spotted standing on crutches outside the stationmaster’s room on Saturday.
Last Friday, Monu Kumar, who was born with limb abnormalities and cannot stand up on his legs, was seen crawling on the footbridge to reach platform one. “I always do so. I crawl a kilometre to catch the train. No one ever comes forward to help me. I have never seen a wheelchair at the station,” the 18-year-old said.
Allegations of gross railway apathy prompted The Telegraph team to sneak into the stationmaster’s empty chamber where wheelchairs are kept. While one of the chairs had a satchel sitting pretty on it, a fourth grade railway employee occupied another. The rest were lying empty.
When this correspondent asked the staff whether she could avail of the free wheelchair service for an indisposed relative, the unfazed man — his eyes and fingers glued to the cellphone — muttered: “Hum yaha par baithe hai, chair nahi hai (Don’t you see I am sitting here… there is no chair available).”
Montu Kachchap, who is visually challenged, overheard the conversation and said: “It is always like this. We never get wheelchairs. Porters take advantage of us and charge Rs 200-250. The railway authorities can at least fix a rate for porter services,” he said.
Another passenger Vikas Rathod agreed. “It is the responsibility of South Eastern Railway to make Ranchi station disabled friendly. But, wheelchair and all are mere eyewash,” he added.
Stationmaster H.K. Pandey denied misuse of wheelchairs. “We provide the facility to whoever seeks it,” he insisted.
ADRM Ramasish Yadav seconded Pandey. “Wheelchairs are there and can be availed for free. I have not come across any incident or complaint of the privilege being denied to those who need wheelchairs. However, I will look into the matter,” Yadav promised.
Deepak Kashyap, divisional railway manager (DRM), claimed the matter had not been brought to his knowledge earlier. “It is a sensitive matter. We must ensure that wheelchairs are made available to passengers who need it,” he said briefly.
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