Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Professor Anita Ghai, a wheelchair user made to crawl by Air India at Delhi Airport

Dear colleagues,

In a shocking case of apathy, Professor Anita Ghai- a disabled passenger, a colleague & activist  - was denied a wheelchair while deboarding from an Air India flight and was made to crawl up to the coach. She took the Alliance Air (Air India's regional arm) flight from Dehradun on Friday, on the evening of  29th Jan 2016 with four of her colleagues. 

A seasoned traveller, she waited with patience for her wheelchair to arrive, for which she had put in a request earlier as per procedure. But it did not, and in a shockingly insensitive incident, she was made to crawl on the tarmac from the aircraft to the coach. 

Dr Anita Ghai, 57, Professor at Ambedkar University, was travelling with her friend when she boarded Air India's flight AI 9610 on January 29 at 6.30pm (Dehradun to Delhi). The air-hostess did not register her requirement for a wheelchair despite repeated requests. "As per rules she again requested air hostess after reaching, but she was asked to be patient. She did not even get up as all passengers have to deplane , before she could go . The flight reached at 7:30 pm. Passenger coach came without wheelchair. She requested them to bring coach to aircraft, they said it can’t be done due to security reasons. after waiting for one hour, Anita Ghai was totally exhausted, and infact started howling and crying . There was no option for her BUT TO CRAWL, for 20 meters from airplane to the coach in absence of a wheelchair.

The Airliner, however, has issued a statement rebuffing the allegations and said that the wheelchair had been provided to the passenger. "Since the flight was parked at a distant bay it took some time to bring the wheelchair. Since passengers were getting down from the aircraft, our support staff actively helped the passenger to come out of the aircraft ensuring any inconvenience and the wheelchair was provided at aircraft doorstep," an Air India statement said.

"We deeply regret any inconvenience caused to the passenger. However, we strongly deny the statement appearing in media. We at Air India give utmost importance to passenger's safety and comfort," the statement added.

Dr. Ghai says that the airlines is 'blatantly lying' and has asserted that she is contemplating legal action. "I complained for a reason and not they are denying what happened. They are blatant liars. It was a case of complete negligence and I was traumatised. They should just acknowledge their mistake. If they don't I will ensure they don't do this again to disable people, just because we are vulnerable," Ghai said.

Narrating her side of the incident, she said that she was made to wait for more than 30 minutes for a wheelchair which never came and that she had to crawl out of the aircraft waiting for the coach to arrive with the chair.

"For around 15 minutes I was made to wait after all the passengers had de-boarded. They (stewards) told me that the wheelchair will come, but it did not. The door of the plane is narrow so I knew the chair could not be brought inside, but they did not even have an aisle chair. I can't stand as I have polio, so I crawled down the steps waiting for the chair. She was finally finally provided with a wheelchair at the arrival hall and not at the bay," she said.

Breaking his silence on the subject, Mr. Ashwani Lohani, CMD Air India aid, "This case is a sad case. There has been failure to the extent that it should have been mentioned in the ticket so that passenger handling gets advance information that there is a wheel-chaired person who needs a wheelchair at the ramp. This did not happen. Had she waited a bit, we would have provided her a wheelchair. He further said, I have written to the lady and we have regretted for the incident."

Meanwhile the disability rights activists are demanding an inquiry into the incident wherein Dr. Ghai- a physically challenged passenger was made to crawl on the tarmac of the Delhi airport. The activists want the Civil Aviation Ministry to set-up an inquiry and punish the guilty for gross negligence.

"We demand an inquiry into the horrible incident where Air India made Professor Anita Ghai, a differently-abled woman passenger, crawl on the tarmac of the Delhi airport by denying her a wheelchair. The responsible persons need to be punished for this gross negligence. Air India should give an unconditional apology to the passenger.

They cannot ill-treat people with disabilities in this horrible manner. The latest guidelines on 'Carriage by Air of persons with disability or reduced mobility' must be strictly enforced in line with the goals of the 'Accessible India' campaign," said a petition on Avaaz.org.

Media Coverage: 

(a) DNA : Disabled passenger made to crawl, slams 'liar' Air India's statement
(b) NDTV: Differently-Abled Woman Passenger Alleges Air India Made Her 'Crawl'
(c) Times Now:  Anita Ghai Demands Apology From Air India
(d) Times of India: No country for Differently abled.
(e) Indian Express:  Air India Accepts 'Delay' in Providing Wheelchair to Disabled Woman
(f) Petition on avaaz.org: Inquiry into HORRIBLE INCIDENT making disabled woman passenger CRAWL

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