Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Has the new DGCA's CAR changed any thing for Disabled People in India?

Dear Friends,

I wonder whether the new Civil Aviation Requirements that were enforced few months ago has helped people with disability in India. On the contrary, I see that the CAR seems to have been misinterpreted - thanks to the provision of "Charges for human assistance" - though in this particular case, it was not human assistance but lift for boarding the aircraft that has been charged for! And that too by an airlines that has been preferred so far by people with disabilities as better than private players like JET.

I suppose there has not been proper orientation and dissemination by the DGCA about the impact of the new CAR currently in force, on the Responsibilities of Airlines & Aerodrome operators. So much so that an airlines under the Govt. of India is not aware of the CAR! This indicates that how much training and sensitization is needed for the ground staff who deal directly with the customers - which even CAR necessitates.

This is absolutely against all norms and rules of equality. No country in the world charge for ambu-lift. This is even against the Hon'ble Supreme Court order as a result of which the airlines and aerodrome operators were asked to provide for ambu-lift at any cost.

The airlines must immediately return the amount and apologise for the treatment that was meted out to the user.

If they don't, I am sure besides getting a bad name, they would have to pay up through their noses - for we have a forward looking judiciary to set the things right!

Here is the incident:

SHIVANI GUPTA WAS CHARGED FOR USE OF SPECIAL LIFT MEANT FOR BOARDING AIRCRAFT We had to hire an ambulift from the airport authority. Since they charged us for it, we had to recover the cost from the passenger JITENDRA BHARGAVA, Air India's director (communications)...............Neha Bhayana Mumbai

WHEN SHIVANI Gupta (38), a wheelchair-bound Delhi resident, took an Indian flight to Mumbai on June 16, she was not prepared for what lay ahead.Not only was she physically carried to her flight seat in Delhi, because there was no narrow wheelchair for the aircraft's aisle, she was also charged Rs 1,685 for an ambulift, (a van with a special lift for the disabled) to board the return flight from Mumbai. Gupta, an activist for the rights of the physically challenged, filed a complaint against Indian, the Mumbai International Airport Limited and the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

The Office of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, vested with powers of a civil court to hear complaints regarding the rights of the physically challenged, issued a show-cause notice to the authorities concerned."I felt humiliated and helpless when I was carried by the staff. They were not trained to handle people with disabilities and I sustained bruises on my shoulders. I could not use the toilet because there was no aisle chair," said Gupta.

An Indian spokesperson said: "We provided a free ambulift at Delhi airport because we have our own service there. But in Mumbai, we had to hire an ambulift from the airport authority. Since they charged us for it, we had to recover the cost from the passenger," said Jitendra Bhargava, Air India's director (communications).

According to a May 1 directive from DGCA, charges may be levied for human assistance but the use of aids and appliances to access the aircraft are to be provided free to physically challenged passengers. The fact that Indian charged Gupta Rs 1,685 for the ambulift was in direct breach of this directive.Gupta had pointed out the directive to the airline staff. "But the staff told me that they had not received any written information about the new law," she said.

Spokesperson for Mumbai International Airport Limited Manish Kalghatgi said: "Facilitation of passage to the aircraft is the responsibility of the airline, not us. "When Bhargava was asked why a narrow wheelchair was not available for the aircraft's aisle, he said: "When passengers can't go up to their seats, they are escorted. Since the passenger has made a complaint, we will argue the case when the hearing takes place."


SC Vashishth