It's hell for the old, invalid, and the differently-abled to travel through Coimbatore railway station, in the absence of escalators and lifts.
Steep stairs stare at those who wish to board a train or leave after alighting from a train, which has been earmarked to be turned into a model railway station for some time.
A lift meant for transporting heavy parcels to the platforms was the only facility for the differently-abled and aged people to access the platforms. It's been non-functional for several months now.
Take the case of Jose N Verghese, a resident of Venkatapuram in Coimbatore, who recently had to take the help of railway officials to lift his father in law, who is paralysed, to access one of the six platforms at the station. "I frequent Ernakulam with my family quite often. Whenever I have to travel with my father-in-law, we have utilised the lift to carry him to the platform. I expected the lift to be working and I asked other family members to proceed towards the platforms. However only reaching the spot I found the lift closed," he said. He wonders how the railways could be so callous about the situation and do nothing for the so many months.
M Muthusamy, a differently-abled person and his wife Rathinam, both residents of Veerapandi in Tirupur, have been visiting Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital for the last two years and find the absence of escalators a pain. "I was disabled after falling down at a construction site. Now I am a heart patient as well. Every month we visit CMCH and each time we are forced to take either stairs or the way on the western side, to reach the platform as climbing the stairs is difficult. However, it is too dangerous to cross the way from the western side as trains keep moving, Rathinam said.
L Velmurughan, member of Tamil Nadu Handicapped Federation Charitable Trust, said the association has raised the difficulties faced by the differently-abled people several times with the railway authorities. There is no separate counter for them, there is no toilet facility and no accessibility to reach the platforms, he said. "More than the disability, it is the lack of concern by the government authorities towards differently able people that hurts the most. This makes them further disabled," he said.
Sujatha Jayaraj, divisional railway manager, Salem division, said very soon a lift for differently-abled people would be set up at the railway station. Tenders for the purpose would be floated soon, she said.
Jayaraj said there are two lifts used for the parcel service. One of the lifts would be removed and a lift for the convenience of the aged and differently-abled people would be constructed soon. The proposal has been already approved, she added.