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Porters Grope Me at Train Stations: Disabled Woman Demands Dignity

Virali Modi has started a change.org petition for better facilities in the Indian Railways, for disabled people.

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A train journey on the Indian Railways comes with its own set of problems and adventures. Many of us may complain about delays in departure time, or how dirty and unusable the toilets are, or that the food is bad.

But for a person bound to a wheelchair, these ‘adventures’ simply qualify as harassment.

Virali Modi is a motivational speaker, writer, model and a person with disability, living in Mumbai. She says she loves to travel. But her travels are punctured by unpleasant experiences of being deeply inconvenienced by poor facilities in the Indian Railways.

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In a Change.org petition, Modi describes being groped by railway porters in three different instances. They were helping her board, as trains are not wheelchair equipped.

I have had to wear a diaper because I couldn’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.

Modi complains that the railways treat disabled people as “a piece of luggage”.

In her petition, she asks to be heard by whoever will listen – Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.



Virali Modi has started a change.org petition for better facilities in the Indian Railways, for disabled people.
(Photo Courtesy: Virali Modi/Facebook)
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According to Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, passed by the Parliament in December, all public spaces, including railway stations, must have facilities for people with disabilities:

Facilities for persons with disabilities at bus stops, railway stations and airports, conforming to the accessibility standards, relating to parking spaces, toilets, ticketing counters and ticketing machines.

But Modi claims she often feels humiliated because of “poor implementation”.

Her demands from the government are the following:

  • Accessible bathrooms with proper space inside the bathroom, clean and higher toilets, low sinks to make washing hands easier.
  • 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 shift onto the seats when needed.
  • Curtains around the berths for privacy to change. Often, I've needed to change my clothes and the berths are too small for me to roll around to change my clothes, as well as have no privacy.
  • Proper infrastructure to cross railroads if needed to change platforms.
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In a week’s time, the petition has garnered over 4,000 signatures. Modi wants to sit down with the Prime Minister or the Railway Minister, and convey her demands to them personally.

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