Monday, Oct 11, 2004
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By Our Staff Reporter
NEW DELHI, OCT. 10. Angered by the "blatant discrimination'' and "humiliation'' meted out to her by the staff of an international airline, the victim -- a differently-abled person -- has complained to the Union Civil Aviation Minister, Praful Patel.
In an e-mail to Mr. Patel, the victim, Sruti Mohapatra, a wheel-chair user, claimed that she was deplaned from a Gulf Air flight on her way to London as she lacked a medical certificate stating that she was fit to fly. The incident occurred in Muscat where Ms. Mohapatra was taking a connecting flight to London. Having just finished the sector from Delhi to Muscat on the same airline without any problem, the question for a medical certificate took her by surprise.
On the crew's insistence for a certificate, Ms. Mohapatra apparently asked for the airport doctor to examine her. However, even though the doctor certified that she was fit for flying, the crew did not agree. When Ms. Mohapatra protested, the police was called and according to the e-mail, she was "deplaned in the most humiliating and discriminatory manner, which had no rhyme or reason.''
In fact, the e-mail also states that the crew in no uncertain terms told Ms. Mohapatra that "Unless the immobile person is removed from the aircraft it would not take off''.
Instead of allowing her to complete the trip, Ms. Mohapatra was "kept in a hotel, allowed one telephone call'' and then flown out the next evening with the medical certificate by the same airport doctor who had examined her the night before.
"If the Gulf Air had such a procedure, why wasn't the `Great Canadian Travel Company Limited aware of it? If Gulf Air had such a procedure why wasn't it applicable to the first lap of the journey?'' questions the letter.
Requesting the Minister to take up the issue so that "disabled people are not subjected to such dehumanising and discriminatory treatment'', Ms. Mohapatra has asked for a commitment from Gulf Air never to harass disabled passengers in future.
"The letter had been written to the Minister on September 22. But he has not even bothered to respond. We have also tried to approach the Gulf Air office here but they refused to meet us. This matter should be taken up so that disabled people are not humiliated in the future,'' said activist Javed Abidi of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People.
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