Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Civil Aviation Minister responds to Parliament Question on Incidents of discrimination against passengers with disabilities

Dear Colleagues,

The Minister- Civil Aviation, in response to questions raised in the Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha on the recent incidents of harassment of passengers with disabilities, replied as below:



ANSWERED ON 21st March, 2012

Differently abled passengers in flights


Will the Minister of CIVIL AVIATION be pleased to state :-
(a) whether incidents of ill-treatment meted out to some differently abled passengers by the private airlines have come to the notice of the Government recently;(b) if so, the details thereof;(c) whether the matter was enquired into by the Government/DGCA;(d) if so, the follow up action taken by the Government thereon;(e) whether most of the private airlines are not adhering to the rules and regulations prescribed for differently abled persons;(f) if so, the action taken by the Government against such airlines alongwith the details of proper facilities for carrying the disabled persons at various airports; and(g) the detailed guidelines in place for air passengers particularly differently abled persons and the steps taken to ensure their compliance by private airlines thereon?



(a) and (b): Three cases of harassment faced by physically challenged passengers were reported to the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), two in the year 2011 and one in 2012. The details and Action Taken report on these cases are annexed. No such case reported to the DGCA against Jet Airways during the period.

DGCA has issued Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) on “Carriage of Passenger by air with disability and/or with reduced mobility”, which is being strictly adhered to by the airlines. The said CAR is available on DGCA website. Violation of the provisions of CAR is punishable under the Schedule VI of the Aircraft Rules, 1937. 


Incident 1: On 10th May 2011, Mrs. Mansuri Shabana and Master Mansuri Lukmaan (Child) were travelling alongwith an infant on Kingfisher Airlines flight on Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Goa sector. They were handed over to the crew on board operating the flight at Ahmedabad. At Mumbai, the ground staff met the passengers on arrival and boarded them on the connecting flight to Goa. On this flight the set of cabin crew realized that the blind passenger was accompanied by an infant and a child. The same was reported to the commander and the ground staff that this carriage was not permissible on safety grounds. The passenger later travelled by Spicejet flight.

The matter was taken up by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) with airlines, Kingfisher Airlines has taken following corrective actions to avoid recurrence of such incidents:
a) The crew and the concerned ground services staff at Ahmedabad have been issued warning letters and have been strongly briefed. 
b) A reiteration of the carriage policy for such travel has been circulated to all concerned. 
Incident 2: Sh. Mohammed AsifIqbal (Disabled from Eyes) faced harassment while travelling on Kingfisher Airlines flight IT 3571 on 30th May 2011 at Patna airport. An indemnity bond was obtained from him. 

Matter was taken up with Airlines by DGCA. As an immediate action, Kingfisher Airlines have terminated all staff involved, including the Airport Manager at Patna airport. In view of this, Kingfisher Airlines reiterated the guidelines to all airports indicating following:
a) A blind Guest who has no medical complications and is perfectly capable of taking care of his/her personal needs must be accepted on Kingfisher flights and is not required to sign an Indemnity form.
b) Such a guest is allowed to travel alone and no companion/escort is required to travel along. 
c) Staff should treat such guest with special care and be sensitive to their needs.
d) In the event of flight disruptions, staff should ensure that these guests are handled with priority. 
Incident 3:   Ms. Jeeja Ghosh, a person with cerebral palsy, was de-boarded from the Spicejet flight SG-803 at Kolkata on 19.2.2012. 

Matter was taken up with Spicejet who informed that when the passenger Ms. Jeeja Ghosh reported at the check-in counter for her boarding card, she did not declare herself to be a person with any disability or with reduced mobility. She was provided assistance to board the flight. As informed by Spicejet, while being seated, the cabin crew observed froth, saliva with traces of blood oozing out of Ms. Jeeja Ghosh’s mouth with her hands folded in an abnormal manner and she was also not in position to respond to the Cabin Crew’s questions. Accordingly, the matter was report to the Pilot-in-Command (PIC) and a decision was taken to de-board Ms. JeejaGhosh on account of her medical condition.

Matter was taken up by DGCA with the airlines. To avoid recurrence of such incidents, Spicejet has re-examined the responsibilities of the pilot-in-command with reference to the provisions of the applicable Civil Aviation Requirements and he is being counseled to display more empathy to deal with such situation in future. Spicejet has also informed that they are issuing necessary instructions to reinforce the existing procedures on handling of persons with disability. 

In this regard, a meeting on the rights of passengers with disability and reduced mobility was held on 12.03.2012 under the Chairmanship of Joint Secretary, M/o Civil Aviation. It was decided that a Committee will be constituted under the chairmanship of JS, MoCA with representatives of stake holders as members to look into best practices in the world on the matter, latest UN/ICAO guidelines on dealing with air travel of persons with disabilities and give a suggestion for appropriate modifications of the CAR concerned and for the improvement of designs of airline websites, accessories and facilities/infrastructure etc. especially meant to facilitate comfortable air travel for the persons with disabilities.

Jeeja Ghosh's Response

Jeeja has reacted very sharply on this reply since this seems to be most insensitive one especially when the DGCA officials have given the version of the airliner as the version of the Government/Ministry. This is despite the fact that DG himself had met Jeeja and seen for himself the disability. Here is how Jeeja responded to the Minister's response, when shared with her by our colleague Muralidharan from National Platform for the Rights of Disabled:

"I am absolutely shocked  to receive this (response). I am groping for words to defend my case. All I can say is this is an absolute misinterpretation of the entire situation. To begin with: 

1. I am a person with cerebral palsy with very obvious and visible physical disability.  There is nothing to conceal regarding my impairment. The very fact that I was provided assistance speaks for it unless all the Spicejet staff members are of "reduced mental faculty" and lack understanding. 

2. I was bleeding from the mouth is another lie. I counter this by saying that if Spicejet is projecting itself as a responsible airlines with concern for its passengers they should have called for medical assistance and not de-boarded me in a humiliating manner. The doctor was called only after the flight had left without me and confirmed that I was totally "fit to fly". I must admit I do drool. But at that point of time I was comfortably seated in the flight reading a book. There was no drooling leave alone bleeding.

3. Also the Assistant Manager of Spicejet at Kolkata airport Mr. Vishu Ramesan did not mention any such incident of bleeding when he spoke to my senior Dr. Reena Sen, Executive Director of Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy.  The very fact Spicejet issued a ticket for me to travel on 20th February 2012 and accepted a letter of complaint from me makes it even more obvious the contradiction in the Spicejet's statement. Unfortunately I was unable to avail of the flight to Goa on 20th February as the humiliation from the Spicejet unnerved me psychologically making me "unfit" to travel.

4. No such episode of bleeding from the mouth was reported to my family either when a ground staff from Spicejet came to drop me home after the entire fiasco. Also Mr. Ramesan came with a tablet apology letter from the Spicejet on 20th February 2012 - why should Spicejet issue even a tablet apology letter when they were so sure they were not wrong?

I am made a humble attempt to defend my case. I will request to forward this response to the concerned authorities. I have also narrated the incident verbally to Mr. Ashok Kumar, Joint Secretary, Civil Aviation when I met him at his office on 20th March 2012. 

Thank you for your support.
Yours sincerely
Jeeja Ghosh"

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