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Delhi Metro and Samarthaya defensive on N.C.P.E.D.P access audit claim

D.N.I.S. News Network- Resorting to tokenism and official formality by the Government and its agencies has become a blight for India’s disability sector, particularly when it comes to the implementation of rights of disabled people enshrined in the Disability Act, 1995.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (D.M.R.C.) appears to be falling prey to the same tactics with its reluctance to address the issue of half-baked access measures adopted by it during the second phase of construction of the Metro infrastructure.

What is also troubling is the fact that Samarthya, National Centre for Promotion of Barrier-Free Environment for Disabled Persons, an organisation advocating for barrier-free environment, which has been claiming the credit of having guided the Metro on the issue of access, is also avoiding the issue. It even refused comment on the issue when contacted by D.N.I.S., saying they did not want to be “confrontationist”.

We could not get any reply from either on issues raised by an access audit conducted by National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.).

The core finding of the audit, as to why only one entrance out of five that have been built at Central Secretariat station has a lift while the other four don’t was shared by N.C.P.E.D.P.’s Executive Director Javed Abidi with D.M.R.C. Managing Director E. Sreedharan.

The reply to this audit from Metro’s Chief Architect Tripta Khurana stated that as a matter of policy there will be only one entrance that will have all disabled-friendly features as “very few disabled people” will be using their service. This clearly shows that the sacred logic of access as an issue of inclusion as opposed to segregation has not been properly understood by the Metro despite its close association with Samarthya.

Abidi then wrote a reply to Khurana, asking her to demonstrate with one of her staff as to how a person on a wheelchair will be able to negotiate the long distance and threatening traffic to the accessible entrance at Rail Bhawan from the other four points. He urged that D.M.R.C. should urgently convene a meeting of all concerned to review the entire situation.

The letter was sent on 10 March. We asked Khurana’s office on whether any action is being taken on this matter, but her staff refused to share any information with us. The silence on the part of Metro and Samarthya is bound to raise some unsettling questions over the need and logic of such a compromise.