“I want to roam around the city, visit parks and sit there on my own and go to temples,” said 40-year-old Kajal Sharma who was denied permission to buy a “commercial” vehicle by a car dealer in Delhi.
According to Kajal’s brother Parul, when the family recently went to purchase a vehicle that could be made wheelchair accessible (Tata Winger), the dealer informed them that it could not be bought for personal use. “The car dealer company said the vehicle is not for private use, stating that the car is of a large size, citing a government mandate that allows its sale only for commercial purposes,” he said.
On Tuesday, the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) issued a notice to the Transport department seeking a timeline for granting Kajal the requisite approvals. The commission has also enquired about steps taken by the department to streamline and ease the process for other such applicants.
Parul said Kajal has 90% intellectual disability and 100% cerebral palsy and thus has restricted mobility and that the vehicle would be helpful as it has enough headroom to accommodate her motorised wheelchair, giving her freedom to travel without hindrance. He said they were left with no other option in the market suitable for her.
He then wrote to the transport department seeking their intervention in the matter along with the DCW. The family has also sought approval to modify the vehicle into a disabled-friendly one by installing a hydraulic lift and allied features.
Kajal said she feels restricted as there are no cab services or hardly any vehicles in the city with ramps for her wheelchair. “I want to move freely but even some metro stations are not completely accessible,” she added.
Parul said that though Kajal studied in special schools, her education was impeded due to discrimination she faced as her weight made it difficult for people to shift her to a wheelchair. Kajal now works as a disability rights activist and accessibility consultant and has won several awards from the Centre and Delhi government.
Her brother, who works for the United Nations as a regional advisor, added that Kajal is not able to participate equally at social events, even during family functions, due to mobility issues. He said it was ironic that the Accessible India Campaign of the government is pushing for ramps everywhere, but it wasn’t viable to reach those locations when suitable vehicles are unavailable.
“Why don’t we have wheelchair-friendly vehicles in our country? Even cabs don’t have such services. A private cab service in Bengaluru had a ramp facility in their cabs but I have not seen such a service anywhere in Delhi,” he said.
When The Indian Express contacted Delhi Transport Commissioner Ashish Kundra, he said the department is yet to formally receive the DCW notice.
Meanwhile, DCW Chief Swati Maliwal and commission member Vandana Singh visited Kajal at her residence and assured her full support in getting a vehicle.
“Even in the 21st century, differently abled persons have to face several problems in their life. It’s shameful that instead of increasing their accessibility, their mobility is restricted through government policies. I fail to understand why such approvals are needed and even if they are, why can’t they be granted on a priority basis for PwDs (Persons with disability)? We have issued a notice in the matter. Not only should she get approvals soon, but the government should also take steps to smoothen the process for other differently abled persons. Such approvals should be provided through the doorstep delivery of services scheme of the government,” Maliwal said.