Two wheelchair-bound citizens fight for years to get ramps in buildings

MUMBAI: In a pointer to the serious dearth of even basic infrastructure for the differently abled, two wheelchair-bound persons from Bhayander, including a paraplegic national swimming champion, have been struggling for years to get proper ramps constructed in their residential building premises, for barrier-free movement.

Sounak Banerjee (38) who has muscular dystrophy, a condition where movement-controlling muscles weaken, kept pleading for a ramp with residents of his Sonam Shraddha building since 2006. He was even willing to bear the construction cost. But even the fact that Banerjee, a tax consultant who handled the building’s account books, didn’t help.

This January, he finally wrote to the disabilities commission in Pune which directed the Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation (MBMC) to ensure construction of the ramp. “The MBMC notice was pasted on the building notice board for a few hours on February 18,” said Banerjee, who in 2013 had organized a ‘Mr and Ms Wheelchair’ pageant that gave wheelchair-bound men and women the opportunity to showcase their talents.

When TOI visited the building, society treasurer Maheshwari J J said that they planned to carry out beautification of the seven-storey building’s entrance and “constructing a ramp would be considered then”. A day after the TOI visit, though, the committee members constructed a ramp. Unfortunately, the building lift was non-functional that day and Banerjee could not personally inspect its construction. “I still cannot move my wheelchair on the ramp. It needs to be modified,” said Banerjee who lives on the fifth floor.

A few kilometers away from Banerjee’s home, Nisha Gupta (30) is fighting a similar battle. Gupta was bound to a wheelchair at the age of 18 following an accident. Since 2013, Gupta has been writing to Sai Sawli Housing Society for a ramp but has been unable to convince the residents to construct one.

“I can fly in my wheelchair if there is no barrier. The two flights of stairs at the entrance have kept me indoors.”

¬†Building secretary Sunil Mhatre said the entrance to the staircase is too narrow for a permanent ramp. “We suggested a portable ramp, even got an iron one, but Gupta is adamant on a permanent one,” said Mhatre.

¬†Bandra’s Neenu Kewlani whose PIL against BEST ensured disabled-friendly public transport, said ramps are rarely built without a fight. “My father had to have several fights to get a ramp constructed in my Bandra building,” said Kewlani, who battles a condition called scoliosis or curvature of the spine. She, though, warns that wheelchair-bound persons should not ignore practical difficulties in a building. In case of Gupta’s building, for instance, Mhatre said the low-lying area where it is situated, faces floods during monsoon. “A portable wall-mounted ramp that rolls down when required will be a solution,” said Kewlani.

On the other hand, Arun Singh, who became wheelchair-bound nine years ago after a bike accident, is lucky. The builder provided a ramp outside his ground floor flat in Bhayander; his building office will soon get another ramp too.

Source: Times Of India

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