Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Does DGCA's CAR address training issues (Disability Sensitization) of CISF personnel employed at Air Ports

Dear Friends,

This incident faced by Shruti, is after several reports, awareness raising and finally a Civil Aviation Requirement - a regulation that deals with What, Why and How aspects of flying a person with disability with dignity and independence! Its agreeable that in light of recent terror attacks, the security is of critical importance. However, I feel that while disability equity and handling training for the Airport Staff and Airlines Staff has been addressed by the CAR for all fresh entrants and a refresher course after every 3 years, the issue of training Security Guards from CISF has not been addressed.

We have seen such reports in the past also and it calls for a policy decision at the highest level of the Government of India and in particular, Min. of Home Affairs, Min. of Civil Aviation and DG-CISF to look at this aspect in a more comprehensive way. The Security Staff employed at the Air Ports have no right to be rude to passengers with disabilities. They need to be trained and provisions should be accordingly made for them either in the current CAR for carriage of passengers with disabilities by air or through some additional rules/policy and be strictly enforced.
In February 2009, there was a case of a senior citizen wheelchair user trapped in the transfer bus when the bus engine caught fire. The untrained driver could not put off the fire and the passenger was engulfed in smoke for ten minutes with literally no help! Here is the link to the case, details of which are appended towards the end.

Subhash Chandra Vashishth

Incident as reported in news is appended below. To read from source click: Indian Express

CISF guard at airport asks woman with leg braces to take off salwar

Posted: Mar 09, 2009 at 0115 hrs IST

Mumbai: Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel deployed at the Mumbai airport allegedly asked a disabled passenger to take off her salwar for security check because she had metallic braces on her legs. The Indian Express had reported how Mumbai airport has been receiving at least 10 to 15 complaints from passengers every month on the overbearing behaviour of the CISF personnel.

“I’ve never felt so disgusted and humiliated in my life and it was not the first time I was travelling,” said Shruti Paul, who was on her way to Lucknow on a Kingfisher flight last Friday. Shruti, who suffers from polio, said she was wearing a caliper on her left leg and braces on her right knee; this would make the metal detector beep every time she passed through it.

“I pulled up my salwar a little to show her my caliper, but she asked me to take it off in the open-ended women’s cubicle,” she alleged. She said her ordeal lasted about 20 minutes, during which she was made to get up thrice from her wheelchair and asked to remove her salwar.

“They said I was not cooperating with them. But I did all I could, considering the heightened security at airports these days. But I could not take off my salwar. I felt like a criminal,” she said, while stating that the woman CISF guard, P Poonam, kept talking on her mobile phone while she was checking her.

Eventually, a senior CISF officer asked the guard to let her go. “He asked me to carry a disability certificate the next time I travel,” said Shruti.

Sanjay Prakash, CISF’s Senior Commandant at Mumbai airport, was unavailable for comment. “While it is mandatory for every passenger to pass the metal detector to enter the terminal’s security hold area, this kind of behaviour is simply unheard of,” said an airport official.
Another news:
Civil aviation body re-issues old document on handling passengers with limited mobility after a wheelchair-bound senior citizen was trapped in a coach on fireIt took a wheelchair-bound senior citizen trapped in a smoke-filled airport coach to draw the attention of the higher-ups in Directorate General of Civil Aviation's (DGCA) office in New Delhi to the disregard shown to air passengers with limited mobility in India. Aviation expert Vipul Saxena observed that Saturday's incident highlights a lapse in the procedure laid down by the Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) for airlines with regard to handling of passengers with disability/limited mobility.
An airport coach carrying a wheelchair-bound senior citizen caught fire at the Mumbai airport on Saturday, leaving her trapped inside the smoke- filled coach for nearly 10 minutes. In a knee-jerk reaction, the DGCA re-issued a Civil Aviation Requirement document dated May 1, 2008, on Carriage By Air of persons with disability and/or persons with reduced mobility.
All stakeholders in the aviation industry, including those who are regulated by the DGCA, have been asked to respond with remedial feedback on the subject by March 7. Naseem Zaidi, director general, DGCA, expressed concern over Saturday's incident saying, "All aspects of the case will be looked into fully before a report is prepared. All improvement needed has to be brought about." According to officials, major questions that the DGCA could raise include, whether the driver of the airport coach has been trained in operating a fire extinguisher, since his attempts to douse the fire did not yield any results. Also, whether an attendant was accompanying the trapped passenger.
The lady, a passenger of the Hyderabad-Mumbai Kingfisher Red flight, was in an airport coach operated by Nova Aviation for Kingfisher. "The nine-odd minutes taken to rescue the passenger from suffocating smoke drew attention to the efficiency and ability of the ground handling staff," Saxena said. Quoting from the re-issued CAR, Saxena noted, "All airlines and airport managements shall run a programme in assisting passengers with disabilities. The training programme shall be conducted at the time of initial training and a refresher shall be conducted every three years, and only persons thus trained will assist disabled persons in all possible ways, including filling up of travel documents, while providing assistance in flight."
Lessons from Saturday's fire :
  • Better ground handling including sensitisation of airport staff to the needs of persons of limited mobility is the need of the hour.
  • More intense scrutiny of procedures for the yearly renewal of passenger vehicles like checking roadworthiness, proper insulation of wiring, lubrication of all rotating parts, engine oil temperature, safe radiator heating, condition of tyres and brakes, number and quality of fire extinguishers
An aviation expert observed that Saturday's incident highlights a lapse in the procedure laid down by the MIAL for airlines with regard to handling of passengers with disability/limited mobility.