It is pathetic that people with disabilities continue to be ill-treated and humiliated by airlines in this country. From the end of a ten hour 40 minute flight of IC 307 when all the passengers disembarked the planed, Javed Abidi must have spent each moment in the hour long wait for his wheelchair realising how dependent on the hospitality of others he really was, till the chair finally showed up at the doors.
Half of that time was spent in negotiations of how Abidi could instead opt to be seated in the standard service wheelchair, while his custom designed wheelchair was being searched for, only to be humiliatingly shifted once again to his own chair.
He may have hardened to condescension over time but being parcelled around, no self-respecting man will suffer.
And Javed Abidi is not self-pitying or resigned to his fate. He happens to be the director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), one of India’s most respected organisations keeping vigil over the rights of the disabled.
Nor is Abidi a first time victim to such indignity. His career as an advocate of the disabled’s rights began after bearing insults by media companies who denied him opportunity.
Last year Jeeja Ghosh, a 43 year old woman with cerebral palsy, reached Kolkata to catch a Spice- Jet flight to Goa only to be offloaded from the plane for her condition.
In May 2011, Kingfisher Airline deplaned a blind woman from a Mumbai-Goa flight.
And this year Tony Kurian, 22, a visually impaired student was denied tickets by Indigo.
The only constant in all these cases is not just the offence but the relative ease and indifference with which it is treated.
And nothing short of stringent punishment is likely to rid the aviation sector of this insensitive attitude.