Wheelchair-bound para-athlete says she was forced to sleep on floor of train
34-year-old Swaraj, who uses a wheelchair, had requested a lower berth while booking a ticket on the Nagpur-New Delhi Garib Rath Express under physically handicapped quota but got the top seat.delhi Updated: Jun 11, 2017 21:53 IST
Para-athlete Suvarna Raj, who has won medals for India in international table tennis tournaments, was forced to sleep on the floor of a Delhi-bound train after she was allotted an upper berth.
34-year-old Swaraj, who uses a wheelchair, had requested a lower berth while booking a ticket on the Nagpur-New Delhi Garib Rath Express under physically-handicapped quota but got the top seat.
“I requested the train ticket examiner for a change of seat who asked other passengers to swap the berth but no one was ready,” Raj, who reached Delhi on Sunday after an overnight journey, said.
“People were just watching. No one showed any sympathy.”
Railway official A Saxena, however, told ANI that the Traveling Ticket Examiner (TTE) offered his duty seat which was in next-to-next coach but Raj didn’t declined the offer.
Not just Raj but her six-year-old son, who was to share the seat with her, and a friend who was travelling with them with a three-year-daughter had to sleep on the floor.
“Though my friend is also disabled she would have managed to sleep on the upper berth. But she had a three -year-old child and could not use the berth,” Raj, who lives in south Delhi’s Badarpur, said.
A railways official said the coach was mainly for people needing tickets on emergency. “There were either patients or disabled people in the coach.”
Secondly, as a limited number of seats were set aside for last-minute travel and the system was computerised, it was not possible to ensure a lower berth for the disabled.
“We try to accommodate as many people we can with lower berth under emergency quota but it is also upon passengers to show magnanimity and compassion,” the official said.
He said the railways would look at ways to ensure that the disabled were given preference in allotting lower berths even if the booking was done late.
Suvarna, however, said there were several people in the train who were physically fit.
Polio at the age two of paralysed both her legs but Raj pursued table tennis with a passion. She won two medals at the Thailand Para Table Tennis Open in 2013 and another at the Asian Table Tennis Regional Championship for the specially-abled the next year.
A social worker, she unsuccessfully contested the recent civic polls in Delhi as the Swaraj India candidate from Badarpur.
(With ANI inputs)