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The Delhi High Court has taken suo motu cognizance of a newspaper report on how a 100 percent visually impaired student failed to board a train and hence missed the entrance exam for a place in the MPhil course of Delhi University.

Two things in this have shocked the court. The first is the complete apathy with which the Railways treat its physically challenged passengers, placing compartments for the disabled at ends and providing little or no help for access.

Secondly, it was the Delhi University, which threw up its hands and said that they could not do anything to help this man make his dreams come true.

The bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar, in its order, said: “This newspaper (The Times of India) report highlights the difficulties that are being faced by the disabled persons in accessing even the coaches which are designated to be used by them. It also manifests that the railway authorities are not only not posting any personnel in the coaches earmarked for the disabled to ensure their rights and to assist them to board the train, but are also permitting able persons to occupy these reserved coaches which prevents them from being utilised for the benefit of the special persons for whom they are intended.”

Vaibhav Shukla tried to board the train at Unnao station at around 2.15 am (to reach Delhi in time for his exams), but even though he and the driver of the train tried, nobody opened the door to the compartment. He missed the train and his exams. Other compartments were too high and were beyond his reach at that hour, especially when the stoppage was only for 2 minutes.

The bench also lamented that the university also did not pay attention to Shukla when he appealed to them.

— India Legal Bureau

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