Rasik Kazi rarely travels around the city to meet his relatives anymore. Age isn’t really the problem for Kazi, who turned 62 this year. But the city’s public transport system, which is quite hostile to the needs of senior citizens, is.
“It is difficult to travel by local train as it is always crowded and there are no designated compartments for senior citizens,” said Kazi. “I do not want to go through all the trouble, and prefer to stay in touch over the phone instead.”
While many are aware of the recent spate in crimes against the elderly, for most senior citizens, even everyday travel is a huge hassle. “The major problem is autorickshaw drivers, who refuse to ply to nearby locations and sometimes even to hospitals,” said social activist Prakash Gidwani, a senior citizen himself. “Elders find it difficult to live with such a hostile attitude in the city.”
In April, HelpAge India, another not-for-profit, had written to the general managers of the Central and Western Railways asking for more wheelchairs for the elderly at major railway stations in the city. “We got a reply from the Central Railway claiming they already had enough wheelchairs, but we get complaints from senior citizens to the contrary,” said Prakash Borgaonkar, regional director, HelpAge India.
Goregaon resident Shilpa Tergaonkar, 75, recounts an ordeal she faced at Dadar station a few months ago when she asked for a wheelchair. “The wheelchair I was given was shaky with a broken footrest. It was difficult for me to sit in it,” said Tergaonkar, who was returning from Belgaum.
However, Central Railway officials claimed that there was no such inadequacy. “We have wheelchairs at all stations and have even deployed electric cars at major stations such as Dadar and CST for the elderly,” said AK Singh, public relations officer, Central Railway.