In a country where just a few month back, Paralympic athletes won four medals, one would expect there would be an increased awareness about disability.
However if paracyclist Aditya Mehta's ordeal at the Bengaluru airport is anything to go, India has a long way to go accommodate physically challenged people.
On Tuesday, Mehta was forced to remove his prosthetic limb as part of a security check at Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) in Bengaluru.
This was not the first time this has happened to him. He faced a similar incident two months back as well, and had to go through it again when he was asked to remove his prosthetic limb while travelling to Hyderabad on 11 October. As a result, he was hurt and bleeding while he hurriedly wore it back again.
"Everywhere they ask me to remove the (prosthetic) limb that is not right they should get a proper body scanner or do what they have abroad here," he told Firstpost over the phone.
"They forced me to remove my limb. It took 45 minutes to wear it back. While I was wearing it inside the room, the officials asked me to come out quickly as the take-off time was nearing. In that tension I started to push my stump very hard, and when I removed the limb in my house, I found I was bleeding," Mehta was quoted as saying by PTI.
He posted about the incident on Facebook as well, where it was picked up by several people.
Mehta is a double silver medallist at the Para Asian Cycling Championship and runs the Aditya Mehta Foundation that helps athletes with disabilities to pursue sports.
While this has happened to him before and he has often spoken about the treatment of physically challenged people in India, this time Mehta is keen on taking stringent action.
In his Facebook post, Mehta mentioned: "A shoutout to the concerned authorities – Fall in line and change the system. Else, be ready to bear the heat. This isn't a plea because we have pleaded before with no luck. This is a challenge to your oppressive system."
Asked to elaborate on how he plans to tackle this, he says he will use Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and Right to Information Act (RTI) to take on the the offenders.
"I will file a PIL, I have filed an RTI with PCS as well as Civil Aviation Ministry. I have written to several organisation many times before as well," he told Firstpost.
Mehta said he was asked by CISF official Thakur Das to get inside a room and remove his prosthetic limb. While he argued that he had been to three other airports but the officials there did not ask him to remove his limb, the authorities still did not relent.
He also said that despite writing to DGCA asking for full-body scanners for disabled people be set up, no action has been taken so far.
After the first incident at the KIA back in August, he had written to Civil Aviation Ministry, the Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, as well as the Central Industrial Security Force, about a more sensitised system in place where prosthesis users can undergo a physical search without stripping or taking off the artificial leg.
"There can be better ways of security check like imaging technology, metal detectors or through pat-down. In some foreign countries they use a special kind of paper and or a pair of gloves that is used to lightly pat your prosthetic limb or wheelchair and then that paper or gloves are passed through a machine to check for any trace of explosives," he had said in a letter, available with Firstpost.
"Being asked to strip, remove a prosthetic leg, run it through the X-ray scanner and then do it back at an airport is not only inconvenient but a gross violation of basic human right to dignity." the letter continued.
However, while Mehta spoke about sensitising authorities to the problems of the physically challenged, he also mentioned that it will take time for people's attitude to change. He hopes that with the attention his Facebook post has received on social media and the efforts of his foundation, he can ensure a more sensitised system for the physically challenged in India.
While a sensitised system for the differently-abled in India may take some time, some sensitivity while dealing with the disabled, not just from officials but also among the general public, will be a start.
First Published On : Oct 13, 2016 17:21 IST