Wheelchair-bound para athlete offers to conduct sensitisation programs
Para athlete Suvarna Raj has offered to conduct sensitisation programs after repeatedly going through traumatic experiences while travelling by train
Wheelchair-bound Indian para-athlete Suvarna Raj, who has represented the country in several international tournaments, has offered to conduct sensitisation programs after repeatedly going through traumatic experiences while travelling by train. On Wednesday, Raj, who suffers 90 per cent disability due to polio, was allotted a side-upper berth while travelling from New Delhi to Nagpur despite booking her ticket under the disability quota and mentioning all the required details. But the berth was not the only thing that distressed Raj, who has represented India in the women's javelin throw F57 and shot put F56/57 events in the 2018 Asian Games, that day.
Her struggle began as soon as she reached the New Delhi Railway Station. "Railways has battery operated e-rickshaws for senior citizens and disabled people. It charges Rs 120 and goes up till the platform. The e-rickshaw driver demanded Rs 500 and also misbehaved with us saying things like 'if you want to sit, then sit, otherwise miss your train'. In the end he charged us Rs 300," Raj told PTI. "Before that the police stopped my taxi, didn't let us go till the main gate. We (people with disability) are allowed to take our vehicle till the ramp but they didn't allow it. "I was not even in my personal car, the taxi would have dropped me and left. Had they allowed that, it would have saved me 10 minutes," she added.
It is not the first time the 39-year-old has been allotted an upper berth. It had happened in 2017 as well. While this time a senior citizen exchanged seats with her, Raj wasn't so lucky back then and was forced to sleep on the floor after the railway officials and co-passengers refused to give her a lower berth in exchange for the one allotted to her. Raj had also met the then Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, who had has ordered an inquiry into the episode. "I have been getting calls from Railways for the past two days. They are giving me illogical explanations. "They told me 'you have book four seats together that's why you were not given a lower berth. If you and your escort book together then you will get lower but if there are more people then you can't "
"They said we are suspending the policemen and are firing the e-rickshaw driver. I told them there is no point in doing that, the main thing is that they should be made aware. "I told them I will conduct the program for sensitisation. They should fix it, one day for e-rickshaw drivers, one day for porters, one for policemen etc." Raj has been campaigning for the rights of the disabled people for long. She works as an accessibility auditor in the Accessibility India Campaign and has audited over 350 buildings around the country for their accessibility.
In 2018, she had spoken out against the poor facilities for the physically challenged during the National Para Athletics Championships in Panchkula, where apparently even the toilets were not accessible. Raj, who is preparing for the Asian Games next year, has again asked to meet with the Railway Minister. "I asked them to fix a meeting next week with the Minister but they said they can fix with some higher level authority. But I will only talk to the minister."