Indian para-athlete Suvarna Raj forced to sleep on the floor of a New Delhi-bound Garib Rath train
New Delhi,June12: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has ordered an inquiry into the way medal-winning para-athlete Suvarna Raj was treated on board a New Delhi-bound Garib Rath train. Raj was forced to sleep on the floor of the train when her repeated requests for a differently abled-friendly berth fell on deaf ears.
The display of apathy triggered an outpouring of support for Raj from fellow athletes and the general public, with many demanding action against the officials in charge.
Have ordered enquiry in the issue.We are serious about ensuring smooth travel for Divyangs https://t.co/DWoHTRMnrQ
— Suresh Prabhu (@sureshpprabhu) June 11, 2017
Wheelchair-bound Raj, who suffers 90% disability as a result of polio infection, told CNN-News18 over phone that she had boarded the Nagpur-New Delhi Garib Rath Express at 8:45 pm on Saturday. Raj said she was allotted an upper berth and had requested the Train Ticket Examiner (TTE) multiple times for change of berth, but got no response from him.
She was eventually forced to spend the night on the floor.
Appeals to address Raj’s problem were also made to Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Twitter on Saturday night.
@sureshpprabhu Ms @suvarnapraj Int’l #ParaAthlete traveling NGP-NZM in #GareebRath,but @RailMinIndia alloted upper berth to wheelchair bound pic.twitter.com/dQSjOqWSOZ
— Pradeep Raj (@PRdisabledpower) June 10, 2017
Raj was still on the train when she first spoke to CNN-News18 over phone on Sunday morning. “It’s been more than 12 hours. I called the TTE 10 times. He never came. No one came to check the ticket also. I haven’t even been able to use the washroom,” she said.
The train reached Hazrat Nizammudin Station in New Delhi at 10:20am.
Speaking to CNN-News18 after reaching Delhi, Raj said, “I had a ticket in the differently abled coach, but was allotted an upper berth. I had to sleep on the floor. There was no one to ask us if we wanted anything. I am not asking for international standards, just some that we, as humans, deserve.”
“Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu should travel in the coach for the disabled and understand the ground reality,” she said.
Backing Raj, paralympian Deepa Malik, the first woman to win a medal at the Paralympic Games, said: “This is a matter of concern. It’s tough for para-athletes to travel…. I will be happy to join any initative that helps improve the situation.”
Suvarna Raj had won two medals at the Thailand Para Table Tennis Open 2013 and participated in the Asian Para Games in South Korea.
She runs an NGO that works for differently-abled people and had recently fought the Delhi civic polls from north Delhi’s Begumpur on a Swaraj India ticket. She eventually lost to the BJP candidate.
Reacting to the report, vice-president of the Paralympics Committee of India, Gursharan Singh, said he would take up the matter with the Railway Ministry.