The Railway Protection Force (RPF) of the Western Railway has planned a special SMS alert system to prevent able-bodied people from using compartments reserved for handicapped persons.
This initiative comes in the wake of an aggressive campaign by disabled rights groups which have been stopping suburban trains where compartments for the disabled have been occupied by able-bodied people.
Mahim Swami, chief security commissioner and inspector general of the RPF, said, “We will co-ordinate with the public relations office of the Western Railway to implement the SMS alert plan, with the help of mobile phone service providers.”
The SMS plan was revealed a day after World Disability Day, which was observed on Tuesday, and would help handicapped travelers protect their space on local trains.
Bothered by the crowds of able-bodied people regularly misusing handicapped reserved compartments, activists have been taking recourse to pulling the emergency alarm chain to stop trains and get these people out. This results in delays and affects the punctuality of services.
Strangely, even the heavy fine of Rs500 on those caught traveling in a compartment reserved for the handicapped hasn’t deterred these offenders.
Swami said the railway police had also launched a special drive on Tuesday against able-bodied commuters traveling in compartments for the handicapped.
The SMS that will go out soon reads: “Please don’t board the coach for the disabled on your train journey. It is especially reserved for physically handicapped commuters. Unauthorised commuters boarding these compartments, will be prosecuted by the RPF under the Railways Act.”
The officials say announcements at stations have failed to stop unauthorised commuters using compartment for the handicapped. But they believe that the SMS campaign would make a difference.
Sunil Chimulkar, secretary, Disability Advocacy Group (Mumbai division), appreciated the SMS initiative saying it would help to reduce illegal travelers and make travel for handicapped commuters less taxing.
Chimulkar and Jeetendra Karelia, president of the group, together with some regular handicapped commuters met Swami on Tuesday.
What law says…
Under section 155 of the Indian Railways Act, an able-bodied commuter caught occupying a berth of seat reserved for the disabled can be fined Rs500.