Thursday, November 13, 2014

Indian Railways continues to drag its feet on making its stations accessible despite court rap

Written by Ruhi Bhasin | Mumbai | Posted: November 13, 2014 12:12 pm

Directing the railways to come up with a time-bound schedule to provide basic facilities for the differently abled by November 24, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday noted that a large number of suburban stations still did not been provide basic amenities like accessible toilets, railings, low ticketing counters and low-height water taps.

Justices A S Oka and A S Gadkari were acting on a bunch of petitions, including one submitted by NGO Disability Right Initiative represented by senior lawyer Gayatri Singh. The petitions highlighted the issue of raising the height of platforms at local stations and providing helipads near railway stations to airlift accident victims.

“As we invite discussions on raising the height of platforms, several people have lost their lives. We cannot spend so much time because railways cannot provide basic facilities. It is sad that the court has to monitor such matters,” the HC said.

On being informed that such facilities had been provided at only 22 stations,  the HC noted that the law required railways to provide such facilities for the differently abled at all stations.

While referring to the affidavits filed by Central and Western Railways, the court observed “We find that in cases of large number of suburban stations, basic amenities for the differently abled are not provided. We direct the railways to file an affidavit specifying an outer limit to provide such basic facilities like accessible toilets, ramps, low height ticketing counters and water taps at all station. Compliance of other facilities will be considered in the next hearing.”

The court has now asked the railways and the state government to file their affidavits by November 24. The next hearing in this matter will be held on  November 26.

“As far as directions to raise the height of platforms is concerned, substantial compliance has been made by Western and Central Railways. Also, tactile indicators should be put 18 inches from the edge to assist visually impaired people,” the court observed.

On the issue of constructing helipads along stations at 14 spots, the court stated that the government’s response in this matter was very vague. “From the urban development department, we have received very vague replies. It does not set out the exact nature of policy decision taken by the government in response to an earlier court order,” it said.

The HC had earlier directed the state government to decide on this issue by by November 5. “You may take time but say yes or no. When an outer limit has been set then the decision should have been made by now. If land is available, why do you require modification of development control regulations? If a particular spot is not available another can be provided,” the court observed.


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