NAGPUR, INDIA, Apr 4: People with disabilities get benefits of concessions in government jobs and at other places, but they are not so lucky when it comes to booking a railway ticket online.
Physically disabled persons get fare concessions, have special reservation counters at railway stations and even special coaches on trains, but get no concessions while booking an e-ticket.
Based on several complaints from disabled passengers, Avinash Prabhune, a city activist involved with consumer rights and RTI, had raised the issue with R K Malhotra, joint general manager (HRD), Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), an arm of the Indian Railways handling online ticketing operations.
Replying to the complaint that was made on May 7, 2011, IRCTC officials didn't seem positive. "A large number of suggestions are coming for updating of the system. Changes in our system are an ongoing activity and are implemented subject to technical and administrative feasibility. Kindly cooperate and live with the options presently available to serve you better," wrote an IRCTC official to Prabhune.
Not satisfied with the reply, Prabhune had taken up the matter with the Railway Board on May 16, 2011. A reply received after nine months from the office of Suhas Kumar, adviser, freight marketing directorate, closed the complaint. It said, "All persons including people with disabilities can book full fare tickets through the internet. However, where concessional tickets purchase is involved, the facility of e-ticketing has not been extended to cases where physical document is to be verified at the time of booking before extending the concession."
The Railway Board said this measure is taken to minimize the chances of misuse of electronic reservation slip.
However, Prabhune says e-ticket booking facility is more essential for physically disabled persons than others. "If senior citizens get concession while booking the e-ticket, why not physically challenged?" he asked.
Deepak Ambarkhane, whose child is physically disabled, said it took nine months for the Railway Board to reply. "This simply demonstrates how badly the grievance redressal systems in the railways work," he said.
"In the new system, the railways have added to our woes by demanding civil surgeon's certificate along with pro forma required for getting the concession," Ambarkhane said.
Prabhune says the Railway Board logic of misuse of e-ticket in case of physically disabled passengers is weird. "This can happen with concessional passengers like senior citizens too," he said.