Krishna Pushkaram ghats remain inaccessible to persons with disabilities

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Devotees offering prayers to the river Krishna

Devotees with disabilities, who want to take part in the Krishna Pushkarams, are likely to face severe inconvenience. The reason: there are no ramps at any of the bathing ghats.

Instead, the state government has come up with alternative arrangements to address the concerns of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs). Trained volunteers, belonging to NGOs will carry disabled people to the ghats for Krishna Pushkarams in Mahbubnagar and Nalgonda districts, as part of government’s alternative arrangements.

“Volunteers will carry PWDs and senior citizens on special chairs from the booking counters to the ghats, assist them in bathing and bring them back to where they were picked up from,” said Mahbubnagar district assistant commissioner (Endowments) B Krishna.

However, the state’s initiative to utilise the services of volunteers to carry disabled people is being questioned by disability rights associations.

President of Network of Persons with Disabilities B Sreenivasulu demanded that barrier-free environment be provided for them in Pushkarams. “We are not dead bodies to be carried on shoulders but living human beings,” he said, while explaining about the problems that are likely to be faced by the persons with disabilities during Pushkarams.

“Carrying us like dead bodies to ghats will not create a barrier-free environment that we are entitled to. An inclusive barrier-free environment that enables us to go on our own or through assistance of an escort, and not on their shoulders, should be put into place. Ramps should be created, announcements accessible to deaf be ensured and all officials from lower to upper ranks should be oriented and sensitised to deal with PWDs,” said Sreenivasulu, a disabled person himself.

“During the Godavari Pushkarams, our car was parked very far from the ghat. My son carried me in his arms to the ghat and brought me back. There were no escorts or wheelchairs,” said P Kamala, another PWD.

Meanwhile, Endowments department said that ramps have not been created with a purpose. “If we build ramps, all non-disabled persons might also use them and fall down into the river waters. That would bring more disaster,” Krishna added.

Legal view

Prof Amita Dhanda, head of Centre for Disability Studies, Centre for Legal Philosophy and Justice Education, NALSAR University of Law, and a nodal officer of the Government of India preparing a national report on disability, stated, “We need accessible pathway till the ghats. Carrying disabled till ghats can be a substitute arrangement but not the end, not the permanent solution to ensure barrier-free environment. The government has to take forward from just providing special chairs. A more inclusive approach is needed which can be done technologically to ensure direct access to the ghats.”

Visually-challenged can’t access ‘krisP App’

The ‘krisP app’, launched by the Mahbubnagar district police especially for pilgrims to the Krishna Pushkarams in the district, has no features that can help the visually-challenged pilgrims. “We have not thought of the visually-challenged people while making the app. I would consult the police team who made the app and some features can be added to it so that the blind can use it for navigation,” said Mahbubnagar SP Rema Rajeshwari.

The krisP App, available on Google play, can be used to navigate the 52 ghats of Mahbubnagar district. A voice navigation and information through recorded voice, if added to the app, will come handy for the visually-challenged pilgrims.

The New Indian Express

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