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Para-athlete rues apathy at passport office PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 19 April 2018 14:12

Para-athlete rues apathy at ITO passport office in Delhi

NEW DELHI: Disability rights activist Suvarna Raj, who has made news on numerous occasions for receiving insensitive treatment of the sort that people of her ilk face daily in the country, had yet another discouraging experience on Wednesday. The international para-athlete visited the Passport Seva Kendra at ITO, where she had to put up with the indignity of a passport office employee trying to help her by lifting her wheelchair up the stairs in the absence of a ramp or a functioning stairlift.

Raj waited for two hours outside the government office, where she had gone to get her son registered for a passport. Her husband went in and apparently asked for assistance in getting Raj into the building. The para-athlete alleged, “The officials told him they couldn’t provide any help and that he should himself aid me in going into the office.” Her husband, Pradeep Raj, too is physically disabled.

It was only after this reporter went and spoke to the security officials that a person was sent to help Raj. On why just a single person was sent to assist Raj, a security official explained, “Other helpers were busy with other duties in the building.”

The wheelchair-bound sportsperson was aghast. “How can a government office like the Passport Seva Kendra not have facilities for the disabled?” she asked. The building’s narrow staircase does not have an inclined ramp for those who use wheelchairs to move, and while there is a stairlift for the use of such people, it has been collecting dust for months.

When criticised about the lack of facilities for the disabled at the passport office, a senior officer, who requested anonymity, claimed, “The stairlift had been in this condition for over five months. It was repaired recently but is not working now because its battery has died down and we don’t have anyone with the technical expertise to operate the machine.”

While the official agreed that people with limited mobility faced problems entering the building, he said, “We always send our people to aid them.” The lone employee sent to assist Raj had to request passers-by for help to lift her up the stairs. The official claimed the passport office was working to improve its infrastructure, and in the interim, many disabled persons “cooperate with us on seeing the crunch in our facilities”.

Pradeep Raj had his own complaints. “I was made to run from one counter to another. While they claim that there are VIP tokens for the disabled, no one came to help me,” he said.

Source: The Times of India Daily April 19, 2018 edition


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