Friday, November 13, 2009

Railways continues to discriminate against Persons with Disabilities

Dear Friends,

Laws fail to work when social attitudes and mindsets are rotten, diseased and highly biased towards persons with disabilities. Defect, abnormality, less fortunate, to be dealt with pity and not equal are what prevalent in our society still!

To top the list of such organisation is Indian Railways. They refuse to abide by law. Railways is a sea with so many divisions, branches, regions and due to lack of a uniform, transparent and effective system in place, rights of people get often abused at the whims and fancies of certain officials who continue to harbor such attitudes against the citizens with disabilities. This is precisely the reason that the Railways have not been able to fill up their backlog of jobs for disabled persons in a transparent manner despite Delhi High Court orders on a PIL filed by AICB, Delhi.

The present case is of Shri Jayanta Kumar Khamari, who wanted to join Railway Engineering Service and has been forcibly given Military Engineering Service. Result declared by Railways indicates his name on page 3 rank 38. Result 2007. He is still awaiting his choice posting even after two years of clearing the Indian Engineering Service. Reason- he doesn't have three fingers in the right hand!

Any physiotherapist/occupational therapist or orthopedic surgeon would opine that if one has thumb opposition available in the hand, majority of jobs requiring fine finger dexterity can be easily performed. Also in the present case, Jayanta functionally uses his left hand as efficiently as his right hand but Railway believes he can not work efficiently and his disability will affect his work. So they came up with a plea that they don't have any post identified for such candidate.

And mind you, the gentleman is working as Junior Engineer with CPWD for past several years with no adverse remarks on productivity due to disability!

High Court of Orissa has categorically expressed in its order, "We are of the view that the action of the Railway Board to allot the petitioner to Military Engineering Service under the Ministry of Defence against the earmarked vacancy for physically handicapped candidates on the plea that no post identified for such candidate was available in Railway Engineering Service is absolutely incorrect and unjustified. The Railway Board is required to act in terms of Section 33 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995"

Hope good sense of law and human rights will prevail and Railways will make itself more receptive to diversity (read) employees with Disabilities to be contributing members of their workforce.

warm regards

Subhash Chandra Vashishth
Advocate & Consultant -Disability Rights
0981125521, subhashvashishth@gmail.com

Click here to read from Source: Even Rahul Gandhi Failed Me

Jayanta Kumar Khamari, an Indian Engineering Service graduate, is fighting for a job in the Indian Railway Service of Engineering. He says he was assured by many leaders, including Gandhi, but the Railways denied him his choice as he doesn't have three fingers on his right hand

Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the most powerful family in the country, can give cold feet to his veteran political opponents. Yet, there are things which are beyond his reach too. Ensuring a job with the Indian Railways, for instance.

That too, despite a High Court order in support of the applicant.

Jayanta Kumar Khamari, from Bhubaneswar, met the Congress general secretary in hope that he will be able to get justice with the young leader's intervention. However, even after receiving assurances from Gandhi, the 35-year-old Indian Engineering Service graduate continues to work in the Military Engineering Service, despite achieving 35th rank in the merit list that qualifies him for the Indian Railway Service of Engineering (IRSE).

Handicap trouble

Even the Railways has no qualms about Khamari's qualification. The problem lies in his right hand that is devoid of any fingers except for the thumb. Khamari suffered from a consumption disease in his childhood, thereby causing the amputation of four fingers in his right hand.

However, Khamari turned ambidextrous and is now able to use his left hand as efficiently as his right. But, the Railways believes the disability could become a hurdle in his way of achieving success as an engineer and therefore, he was refused his preferred choice of service.

"I appeared before the medical board, which recommended me for field work after examining my hand. The Railway Board was the nodal authority for appointment and it did not take up my case, as per my choice for the Indian Railway Service of Engineers," Khamari said.

For the last two years, Khamari has been waging a pitched battle against the alleged discrimination against him.

Even ten years of Khamari's experience as a junior engineer with the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) failed to convince the bosses at the Railway Board to allow him to achieve what he truly deserved.

In the hope that the 'most powerful leader in the ruling party' (Rahul Gandhi) will ensure his choice of job, Khamari met him in August last year. But contrary to his belief in the omnipotence of the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, nothing happened.

Not only Gandhi, many others, including the Minister of State for Railways Naranbhai Rathwa, did not pursue Khamari's case.

"I met the chairman and secretary of the Railway Board. I also met Sanjay Mitra, joint secretary and Satyanarayan Sahu, director at the Prime Minister's Office but even they could not help me," Khamari told MiD DAY.

In court

The young engineer, however, did not lose hope and moved court against the alleged discrimination against his disability by the Railways. He lost in the lower courts, initially, yet continued his battle.

Now, Khamari has the backing of a favourable order by the Orissa High Court and an equally damning assessment of the discrimination by the Railways from the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD).


Long fight


Apart from a frustrating wait for what he deserved, Khamari had to face several other hardships to shuttle between Bhubaneswar and Delhi.

"When my case was pending with the CCPD, I stayed in Delhi for almost two months. During that period, almost for a month, I stayed at Jagannath temple, near IIT. And then with my friends in Jia Sarai, Katwaria Sarai and Ber Sarai," said Khamari. But, now with the High Court by his side, it seems that Khamari has finally got his 'hand of God'.

What the law says

Section 33 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 provides that the appropriate government in every establishment shall appoint such percentage of vacancies not less than three per cent for persons or class of persons with disability of which one per cent shall be reserved for the persons suffering from:
i. Blindness or low vision
ii. Hearing impairment
iii. Locomotor disability or cerebral palsy, in the posts identified for each disability.

The proviso to Section 33 of the Act states the appropriate government body is at liberty to exempt any establishment from the provisions of this section by notification. From the order of the Chief Commissioner it appears there is no notification exempting the Railway from the purview of Section 33 of the Act.

The High Court said...

"We are of the view that the action of the Railway Board to allot the petitioner to Military Engineering Service under the Ministry of Defence against the earmarked vacancy for physically handicapped candidates on the plea that no post identified for such candidate was available in Railway Engineering Service is absolutely incorrect and unjustified. The Railway Board is required to act in terms of Section 33 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. Accordingly, we direct the Railway Board to issue necessary orders in favour of the petitioner in terms of the order of the Chief Commissioner within a period of two months from the date of receipt of this order." Justices BP Ray and BP Das, September 17, 2009

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