Every year, December 3 is observed as World Disability Day. The day commemorates the spirit of those people, who have battled disability with undefeated determination.
Even as several seminars and conferences are organised to raise awareness on the physically-challenged, the ground reality does not portray Amritsar as a disabled-friendly city.
For Manpreet Singh (22), moving around with the aid of crutches, is an arduous task. "The worst experience is when I have to stand for hours in a general queue at different offices and while buying tickets at the railway station," said Singh. "Boarding a train, bus or other means of public transport is not easy for me. Nobody has ever offered help to me."
Davinder Singh, vice-president, Spinal Cord Injury Association, told HT: "Despite laws and regulations, no place offers facilities for the physically challenged. Once I visited a government office and some men carried me with my wheel chair to a higher floor. It was scary," said Singh.
Stating that the lackadaisical attitude of the authorities concerned was creating hindrances in making Amritsar a disabled-friendly city, Inderjit Kaur, president, All-India Pingalwara Charitable Society, said, "They must be empathetic towards the disabled."
Hindustan Times does a reality check on various public places, offices and hospitals to find out what facilities have been provided for the physically-challenged in the city.
The grand porch of the Amritsar Junction station offers a ramp for the aged and the physically-challenged only on one side. Above the current booking window, right next to the porch, it has been clearly mentioned that there is a general queue for everyone. The facility of wheel chair is not available. If someone has to board a train from other platforms other than platform one, crossing the foot over bridge is the only option.
Entering the bus stand is an arduous task due to traffic chaos. The absence of ramps has compounded the woes of the disabled. Thankfully, there are dedicated toilets for the handicapped but they are usually found locked.
The public offices, including office of the deputy commissioner, police commissioner, municipal corporation, Amritsar Improvement Trust and other local offices don't have adequate facilities for the physically challenged. There are no proper ramps and special toilets for the disabled.
Head Post Office
The main post office of the city and the district has been functioning since 1925. However, it has failed to provide proper assistance to the physically challenged. There are no special queues for the disabled at any counter though ramps have been constructed. An official on the condition of anonymity said there were no special queues for the disabled. He, however, said, "If we see any physically-challenged person, we give him priority and assist him first."
Hospitals have proper ramps and toilets for the disabled but hygiene is the need of the hour.
Signboards should be installed for the convenience of disabled persons. Separate queues should be made at every public office.
If police can introduce emergency helpline number for women, they should do the same for the disabled. Whom should we contact during an emergency?
Sukhpreet Singh Boparai
There are no ramps for people on the wheel-chair. I cannot venture out alone and have to tag along my helper.
Sukhdev Singh Mannan
The authorities have turned a blind eye towards providing safety and ensuring that public places are disabled-friendly.
A person on a wheelchair faces difficulty while boarding a bus or train. The authorities concerned should understand the plight of physically-challenged persons.
"I have travelled to many countries where I noticed a large number of facilities for the disabled. Sadly, there are no facilities in my city.
Dr Inderjit Kaur, president, Pingalwara
"I am extremely particular that all public places are disabled-friendly. We have ensured that all malls, cinemas and other places must have proper ramps and special toilets for the disabled.
DPS Kharbanda, Municipal Commissioner
"I will get inspections carried out at public places to see if public places are disabled-friendly. As per law, ramps are mandatory. There should be toilets for the physically-challenged. I will ensure that all places provide adequate facilities to the disabled.
Ravi Bhagat, DC