Posted by Latha PM
I am Latha PM, a visually challenged candidate, who appeared for Mphil Educational Studies interview in Jawaharlal Nehru University on 13th, July, 2016. While returning to Mumbai, I took Gareeb Rath from Delhi Sarai to Bandra Terminus on 14th Morning. I had booked an offline ticket in Gareeb Rath express, train no 12215, coach no GD1, Berth 3. I was travelling alone without an escort as it was not possible for me to arrange one for myself while I had to appear for the interview process in Delhi. Hence, I went ahead, traveled alone to appear for the interview process. For the purpose of reimbursement, by mistake I submitted the original ticket at JNU office and was not able to collect it back, but I had the image of ticket, PNR and other details with me on the phone.
Unfortunately, may be the bureaucracy and railway officials did not like the concept of a person with disability traveling alone and hence fined me because according to them I should have had the hard copy of the ticket. I told them, pleaded, sharing the ticket on phone, sharing the PNR number, my photo Identity and JNU interview letter. This went on for almost half an hour and still finally the official made me pay 1020 rupees fine for the ticket I already paid. As I had no escort, at that time I had no idea if I received the genuine receipt and nor I wanted to get down from the train on a unknown station.
Being a research scholar, exploring positions of women with disability in higher education, facing such bureaucracy from Indian railways came as harsh reality to me. I had photo of the ticket in my mobile, carried enough ID proof’s along with a copy of JNU interview letter. In spite of me having the PNR number and my name appearing on the register book of the TT, I was made to pay extra money only because I did not have the original hard copy ticket with me.
The bureaucracy who made a student pay fine of 1020 rupees, without agreeing to negotiate, disappeared with their responsibility next morning. After Borivali station there was no attender nor TT to assist me to get off the train. As all the passengers in the coach got down at Boriwali Station, I was alone in the coach from Borivalli to Bandra, contemplating as to which side the platform will come for getting down. With such confusion, I managed to move to the next coach and met attendants to help me get off the train.
I am sharing this experience to reach more people, to share how simple things are made inaccessible and difficult for the person with disability in the name of bureaucracy and cultural norms in our country. Narendra Modi’s attempt Beti Bachao Beti Padhao looks distinct with these kind of officials and bureaucracy. The system in place is undermining the confidence of women with visual disability trying to be independent at least in the ways possible.
I can only request you readers to share this, possibly to reach the Railway Minister, Shri Suresh Prabhu and Minister of Human Resource Development, Shri Prakash Javadekar.
These incidents won’t stop me to pursue higher education or raising awareness among many more like me. At least such incidents should not occur in future and not stand as a hindrance to an opportunity for a person with disability to achieve independence.
Thank you for reading.
Latha PM is research scholar at Tata institute of social Sciences, her interest lies in learning experiences of women with disabilities in higher education across Indian universities.
Featured Image Credit: Gareeb Rath | Wiki Commons