Airlines discrimination sparks protest
The Telegraph - Calcutta : Guwahati
June 24: The project co-ordinator of Regional Disabilty Law Unit, Northeast, an organisation dealing with rights of the disabled, Arman Ali, today moved the Gauhati High Court against what he calls a “deliberate and sustained policy of discrimination against disabled persons” by the state-owned Indian Airlines.
Arman himself is afflicted with locomotor disability. “Ali is not only speaking for himself but for his entire community,” said Siddharth Sankar Dey, Arman’s counsel.
The court of Justice A. Roy has fixed the matter for admission on July18.
Arman had booked a ticket with the Indian Airlines for travelling to Mumbai on a Guwahati-Calcutta-Mumbai flight on January 15 last year. Ali was scheduled to attend an international seminar on disability at Mumbai.
Indian Airlines issues what it calls M category tickets at concessional rates to visually-impaired persons and persons with locomotor disability of 80 per cent and above. “Though Ali had booked the ticket three weeks in advance, he was placed on the waiting list. But on the day of the journey, Ali found that his seat was not confirmed,” Dey said. He feels that the act was deliberate. “Passengers who had booked their tickets much later were given confirmation,” Dey said. “Ali was repeatedly told by the airlines that “everything will be arranged”. But no arrangements were made. Left with no choice, Ali had to purchase a ticket on a private airline to reach Mumbai.”
Dey said that it has become a standard practice for the airlines to place people like Ali on the waiting list.
“Regardless of when they may have booked the ticket, their tickets are not confirmed until the time of departure so as to accommodate other passengers who pay the full fare.”
Dey said as per the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 and a 1999 Supreme Court ruling, state-owned Indian Airlines is under legal obligation to pursue disabled-friendly policies. “That’s why persons with locomotor disabilities are provided concessional tickets under the M category. But unfortunately, in reality, Indian Airlines follows a blatant policy of discrimination.”
Ali is actively involved in creating awareness about disability-related laws and providing legal aid to disabled people.
The Regional Disability Law Unit works in collaboration with Shishu Sarothi, a local NGO and the National Centre for Promotion of Employment of Disabled People, New Delhi.