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A para-athlete’s tale of woe at airport

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A para-athlete’s tale of woe at airport

September 11, 2015

An international para-athlete, Suvarna Raj, was allegedly harassed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here by security personnel.


Ms. Raj had gone to South Korea to represent India at the ‘World Assembly of Women with Disabilities’ from September 2 to 6 and was allegedly asked to get up from the wheelchair for security check.

“I cannot walk and when I told them [the security personnel] they said I will have to get up from the wheelchair for security check,” Ms. Raj said. “I then told them that I cannot even get up on my own and need help.” Shockingly, there were no women attendants available and Ms. Raj was helped and held up by a male attendant. “I told them I am not comfortable with a male attendant but they said there was no other option.” However, she said that within minutes another wheelchair was brought, but the whole experience was sheer harassment.

‘Mandatory procedures’

The security procedures followed at airports are as per the instructions of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security which we are bound to implement. Passengers who are differently-abled might face some difficulties due to this but these procedures are mandatory,” said a spokesperson of the CISF, which handles security at all civil airports in the country.

“We, however, ensure that our personnel are respectful towards passengers and they try to cooperate as much as possible, so that the procedure is carried out in a dignified way. We organise special workshops for our personnel on how to treat each passenger respectfully, particularly those who are differently abled so that they do not feel hurt. However, passengers also need to appreciate the fact that these procedures are for their safety,” the spokesperson said.

Ms. Raj, who is president of the Association for Disabled People, said that every time she travelled she faced similar problems at the airport. “It wasn’t the case in Korea. There they were very helpful and did not shift me. They had equipment and my wheelchair went through the metal detector.”

Files complaint

She has filed a complaint with the airport authorities and has written to the Delhi CM asking them to intervene in the issue. Interestingly, in August 2014, Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) wrote to the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation on sensitising security personnel at airports towards the persons with disabilities and to see that nobody was harassed and humiliated. “They have created a big airport but officials are not sensitive towards people, especially disabled people,” Ms. Raj said.


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