President of the Meghalaya Deaf Association Ferdinand Lyngdoh Marshillong on January 27 expressed frustration at the inability of the state to provide access to public transport for people with disabilities, adding that it has been a long-standing issue which is often swept under the rug.
The state government, according to a reply to an RTI filed by him with the office of the Commissioner for Persons with Disability, had received a fund of Rs 33,67,52,971 from the central government under Accessible India Campaign-1 to make 22 selected buildings accessible.
The RTI reply revealed that Rs 32,45,73,416 has been utilised so far while the balance will be released after completion of all the work.
In a statement issued, he stated that with regard to accessible transportation, the reply mentioned that there are 37 mini SPTS Ashok Leyland buses under the Meghalaya Urban Development Authority which are fully accessible to PWDs and two seats are reserved for them and manual assistance is also being provided.
“However People with Disabilities are still struggling. Benister Kharpor, a visually impaired person, said these SPTS buses run away if they see persons with disabilities. This is not the only challenge that PwDs face and also affects them when they have to go and apply for their disability certificate,” he said.
Marshillong added that lack of accessible transport greatly affects people with disability in rural areas, especially when they have to travel to the district hospital to get assessment done for availing the certificate.
He said that it is a problem for PwDs when the district hospitals do not have specialists and they have to travel to other districts or to Shillong. Due to these difficulties, there are still PwDs who do not have disability certificates, he added.
He lamented that public transport in Meghalaya is far from being disabled-friendly or inclusive.
“While the term disabled-friendly has become a popular buzzword in various schemes, campaigns and other activities, citizens have pointed out that there is very little effort to really make public infrastructure/ transportation accessible, safe and considerate for individuals with disability,” he said.
Marshillong added that even the State Resource Center on Disabilities Affairs has been working hard to reach out to PwDs to help them get their certificate but lack of access to transportation and higher fare is keeping them away from getting it.
An official had said that they had tried their best to bring specialists from other districts to such villages for necessary assessment for PwDs to get their certificates, but most are unwilling to do so resulting in many having to go without such certificates.
Having a disability certificate and UDID (Unique Disability ID) Card enables PWDs to avail the benefits provided by the government and also to claim their rights.