Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport's T3 terminal is known for its swanky interiors and modern architecture, but when it comes to the quality of security personnel's training at the airport, the standards are truly of the past.
Rajesh Bhatia has now dealt with this horror, twice.
On 8 October, the Bhatia family were setting off on their holiday to Thailand, when Rajesh, while moving through security, encountered the metal detector beep. The security staff seemed confused. After Rajesh explained and showed relevant documents about his prosthetic limb, they called a senior rank officer. Turns out that the senior officer was also confused and eventually the passenger had to be taken into the officer-in-charge's room.
Rajesh was asked to strip and remove his artificial limb which was then put in a tray for scanning separately. Agitated and humiliated, Rajesh resisted and said it is against his dignity to remove his prosthetic leg.
Rajesh's wife recorded the whole incident this time, to base their grievances and seek immediate help.
Rajesh still feels humiliated when he narrates how the officers mocked him. "I was asked about if I got married before or after my amputation... don't know what sense that made,' he adds.
Pushpa Bhatia, 72, mother of Rajesh adds, "It was a horrible situation for us, I was myself in a wheel chair and no one told me where my son was... my grand daughters also panicked and it became very difficult for us to get updates from the staff."
This was the second time he was stalled at the security check.
The last episode was when Rajesh was to fly to Tokyo, he complied with the authorities but left no stone unturned to reach out on behalf of the differently-able after.
"After the incident in 2012 when I was to fly to Tokyo, I wrote to the Bureau of civil avaition, I even addressed my letters to VVIPs, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Prime minister, but got no response," says Rajesh
His letters were a cry for help: "Having lost my right leg above the knee in a near-fatal accident 23 years ago, I have been confronted with the inhumane and cruel face of society on a daily basis. I have kept my patience all these years. However my recent experience with the unjust behaviour of security personnel at the Indira Gandhi airport has aroused tremendous anger in me. "
Bhatia, has travelled across the globe since his accident and the treatment he gets in India is different from worldwide attitudes.
Rajesh's experience earlier in the month highlights the problem faced by many passengers.
He makes a few recommendations based on his experience with the security staff at airports globally.
"I have travelled to Europe and other countries where there is a simple pat down search, they follow different SOPs for differently abled," Rajesh adds.
Apart from the issue at hand of a security check, there is another issue of grave concern, lack of training to the personnel, that ensures a certain humanity, he explains.
He recommends that personnel should be trained and the training be refreshed every three months. He also suggested that simple checking procedures implemented in international airports be employed in India too. Same gender staff should be allowed to deal with the differently-abled and if a person is uncomfortable, he or she should be accompanied by a family member in scanning room, he said.
Samarthayam, a Delhi based NGO, working in tandem with Rajesh, has offered to train personnel on how to deal with the differently-abled. The NGO has also worked on a handbook with guidelines under various categories - training for dealing with passengers in wheel chairs, people with prosthetic limbs, training on scanning and most importantly, training on social skills.
The incident is an alarming reminder of a similar ordeal another differently-abled flier had to face in Delhi and Mumbai airports a few months back. Suranjana Ghosh, a 37-year-old media professional had written a blog post about how humiliated she felt when the authorities at Mumbai airport forced her to remove her prosthetic limb - an act that requires her to strip waist down. In fact, Ghosh had told the media that she had been subject a similar kind of humiliation at the Delhi airport too.
While the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, conducted a meeting in August this year, nothing concrete seems to have come out of it. While Rajesh continues to fight his battle, it is time India's humanity stood up and treated the differently-abled with the respect that is their right as citizens of a democracy.
Published Date: Oct 20, 2013 03:07 pm | Updated Date: Oct 21, 2013 08:35 am