How accessible is India??
India is a developing country from the days I have learnt my geography and history lessons at school and we would all like to see India as a developed nation. The question is how far we deserve to be a developed country and where are we towards development. Most of the developed economies believe, that would happen by 2050 while some of us believe that we attain development status when we address the 12 worldly problems as classified by the UN. Leave aside 12 problems, we suffocate solving one of these problems at the National Capital Region – Air Pollution. Let us not head that far with this article.
While we have developed at least to a discussion stage of what is required for development, we have to go back to ponder on the basic problems which could be addressed. One small step can change your life and that is the elixir of this country in my opinion. One such small step could be accessibility. Accessibility!!!! – A big question mark that is raised on the face of India.
Now, let me explain what accessibility we will talk about in this case. Certain topics cannot be thought about / experienced by a common man until we have the basics right. One such topic is “accessibility for the physically challenged in India” and I was one such common man who was not able to think that a physically challenged does have big accessibility issues in India, until I met this person in Sweden who is now one amongst my closest circles. He decided to leave India and live abroad in spite of beating all the odds managing to do a decent degree and succeeding professionally with a well-paid job in India.
His quench for more in life and most importantly to get into the life that he deserves with his challenges he left the country. Is it true? A BIG NO. He left the country because this is a country which is difficult to lead a normal life for the likes of him and more than that at many places a physically challenged guy is ill-treated. Do we even think of such people existing around us?.
From school admissions to graduation, work, public transport, travel, leisure etc. are challenges, humiliations. I don’t complain the others for this situation. Living in Mumbai, where taking a local train is not accessible for anyone as it is damn crowded during the essential hours, I cannot expect our friends to think about access of our physically challenged friends. In a place like Mumbai, you cannot walk on the roads without being physically in contact with your co-commuter. Mumbai is a special so called cosmopolitan exception. But what is it that really made my friend leave this country and explore other countries. The next few questions!!!
Can a physically challenged in India take a train or a bus as comfortable as any European country? Do they have access to public toilets, Leave aside special toilet? Can they enter many of the buildings without getting out of their wheel chair? Can they travel on their own without much help anywhere in the country? Do they get admissions in colleges especially in technical trades without much of a fuss? Fortunately in metros, there is access, I believe.
Now he lives in Italy and comfortably commutes between Italy and UK on almost a monthly basis. In most of Europe, trains, libraries, busses, bus stations, schools, universities, theatres, shops, majority of the public places including park benches with space for wheel chair users is equipped with accessibility facilities. In India, many of us think of these as a luxury whereas for those in need, it is a practical requirement. Is this not basic facility that the society should provide? Should we not take this forward for our friends to get closer to accessibility?
In fact initiatives like this should be on our national agenda and the government should make sure that all public places are accessible as a minimum case. Then the rest will follow its course. It is just the cream layer like my friend who had managed with his will to get out to an accessible country. There are many of our friends out there in this country and it is our duty to provide them their basic right, give them equal opportunity.
This is democracy too. Let us keep it in our thoughts and put them into actions at the right time as much as possible. Not only the government, we ourselves could implement accessibility in our premises, business, schools etc. Remember, all of us will need accessibility at some point of time in life when we get to be old enough.
This small initiative of yours could lead into many of us thinking about it, implementing it. When we think upon such basic developments we grow to be more developed than before and it will lead us towards the path of a developed nation in its own way. Believe me!! Small changes to individual lives will lead to transformation on the whole as a society, as a nation. Let us make India, accessible.