Virali Modi, who met with an unfortunate accident at the age of 13 that paralysed her neck down, has been on a wheelchair since then. But she didnâ€™t give up and hugged the life as it came. She became a motivational speaker, disability rights activist, a writer and even became a runner-up at the Miss Wheelchair India pageant in 2014.
Virali, who lives in Mumbai, loves to travel. However, she had an ugly experience during her travel with the Indian railways due to many reasons. She was harassed and molested by the porters when they lifted her to board the train. She took the help of the coolies because the Indian railways are not disabled-friendly and are not wheelchairs accessible.
After all the humiliation she faced while travelling from Mumbai to New Delhi on Indian Railways for medical purposes, she is now trying to get Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Railway Minister Suresh Prabhuâ€™s attention to fix this issue faced by the disabled in the country.
For this, she has started an online petition at change.org, and has received 81,380 signatures so far.
â€œI've been groped and manhandled three separate times by porters. They were helping me board the train because Indian trains are not wheelchair accessible. I am a disabled woman living in Mumbai who loves to travel,â€ she wrote in a petition.
Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu has taken a note of her petition and has assured that steps will be taken in this regard.
â€œHave taken note.Already w'king on making our stations,trains Divyang friendly,hv made significant progress,lot is 2 be done.Any idea welcome,â€ he tweeted.
Have taken note.Already w'king on making our stations,trains Divyang friendly,hv made significant progress,lot is 2 be done.Any idea welcome https://t.co/Gg8BQYFm1wâ€” Suresh Prabhu (@sureshpprabhu) February 9, 2017
Here is what Virali has written in her petition:
â€œI have had to wear a diaper because I couldnâ€™t use the train bathroom. And when I needed to change that diaper, I had no privacy and had to wait for hours for the lights to go off at night. The railways treat the disabled as a piece of luggage. This needs to stop!â€
â€œSign my petition and join me in asking the railway minister and the Prime Minister to implement disabled friendly measures in Indian railways.â€
â€œThey took advantage of my disability to grope and manhandle me. I am wheelchair bound and I need the help of porters to board trains as they are not wheelchair accessible. On three occasions I was molested by porters. I was left humiliated and all I could do was cry. I need your help to make sure this does not happen to any other disabled person.â€
â€œAccording to The Disability Rights bill, there need to be facilities available for those with disabilities. The Railway Ministry has been talking of making trains disabled friendly but in reality, we are still humiliated every single time because of poor implementation.â€
â€œMy fight is to ensure human dignity for the disabled. I am asking the authorities for some basic things everyone takes for granted-â€œ
Here is what all she has demanded from the Railway Ministry:
#Accessible bathrooms with proper space inside the bathroom, clean and higher toilets, low sinks so we can easily wash our hands.
#Accessible coaches for the disabled in all trains, ideally one for each class. Enough space between berths so it is easy to fit a standard size wheelchair between the berths and we can shift onto our seats when needed.
#Curtains around the berths for when we need to change. Often, I've needed to change my clothes and the berths are too small for me to role around to change my clothes, as well as have no privacy.
#Proper infrastructure to cross railroads if needed to change platforms.
#Beside these infrastructure related demands, I also want an attitudinal shift in the way the disabled are treated:
#Sensitise people to let those with disabilities board first as the general public normally does not care about our well being. Everyone is in a rush to get to their seats.
#Sensitise abled-bodied persons to not board the handicapped compartment, especially in local trains. We often see that in the local train, those who are not disabled will climb in. That isn't fair.
#Train the drivers and TCs to halt the train till a handicapped passenger has finished boarding, especially for local trains. The local train only stops for two minutes and with all the crowd, it is very difficult to board.
#I want to sit down with PM Narendra Modi or the Railway Minister Mr. Suresh Prabhu and talk to them about the difficulties faced by those whom are disabled. Sign my petition and ask PM Modi and Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu to implement measures to make the Indian railways disabled friendly.