India Post: “Paper Tigers” in “ease of access for the disabled”

Minister of Communications & IT while unveiling the new logo of India Post said, “The government is taking steps to make India Post a parcel and logistics giant, in the domestic as well as international sector.” The new logo was termed as a synthesis between service proposition and modernity and the launch was heralded as a landmark with the promise that the new corporate identity will unfold higher level of customer services. That was 4 years ago.

Sitting in my office in one of the premier institutes of India, I try to accomplish majority of work via emails. It’s not that I am against snail mail but I dread at the thought of visiting Post Offices (PO). The reason – I have mobility impairment. Post Polio Residual Paralysis to be precise. With my abilities, I did my MBBS and then MD. I am also a guest speaker for many medical education workshops within Delhi as well as outside it. No mental obstacle came in my way but I can’t fight out physical barriers. The post office in my hospital campus is on the first floor without provision of any lift. The nearby post offices have the same inaccessibility issues. Those who are on ground floor’s are without hand railings or ramps.

Let’s look it in a larger perspective. Persons with disabilities (PwD’s) constitute more than 15% of the world’s population and is  the “world’s largest minority.”For us, the lack of access to essential services (like postal services) remains a source of discrimination and lost opportunities. In March, I filed my first complaint to the local post office to make it accessible to PwD’s. It was followed by reminders, than emails to higher authorities as well as to India Post’s nodal officers. Nothing happened except acknowledgment of receipt of complaints. Being an independent citizen of this country, it’s my human right to visit any public building and to avail all public services. This, along with the continued indifference of India Post prompted me to lock horns directly with them and I finally filed RTI application under the Right To Information Act to know the accessibility status of all post offices in the capital of India, Delhi towards PwD’s.

India Post didn’t disappoint me with their traditional indifferent attitude. Nothing happened in the mandatory one month period where it is legally bound on them to furnish the info. Undeterred, I filed first appeal. Not surprisingly, both my RTI and first appeal, which were sent via speed posts, took more than 7 days to reach Delhi from NCR. (I caution the readers to always track their consignment details as what is promised is not always delivered). The first appeal lead to a flurry of responses from all divisional PO’s in Delhi.

Delhi East division stated, “no post office under this division is with the facility of lift.” Central division replied, “no separate arrangement for the PwD has been made so far to access the PO.” North division reiterates “no facility for barrier free access.” West division blatantly claims that “all are easily accessible & barrier free” despite 3 PO’s on first floor without lift. South West division’s reply implies that 77% of PO’s are without ramp for wheelchair users. 65% of this number is in government buildings.

South division considers Gulmohar Park in South Delhi as ‘barrier free’ but a wheelchair user can only look down in despair at this basement located inaccessible PO. The office of Director, GPO, New Delhi in response to my question, “accessible status to persons with disabilities” writes- “New Delhi GPO is centrally located hence it is therefore accessible for all.” This attitudinal barrier is just a tip of the iceberg. Visually impaired are completely delineated from “disabled” category as I have yet to see a PO with tactile markings or guided assistance and a lift with audio system.

The construct of India Post’s new logo (see image) four years back was inspired by the fact that India Post carries emotion across physical distance. At first glance, it is an envelope and at the next glance, it is a bird in flight, unhindered and unrestricted. The following bold strokes convey free flight. The reality exhibits barriers, hindrances and restriction of our basic humanrights.

It has been said that the red colour in the logo embodies passion, power and commitment. Yellow communicates hope, joy and happiness. Evidence of the lacking of this commitment and joy can be found right across the capital. India Post violates and undermines the dignity of PwD’s which is so manifestly against the spirit of the Constitution of India and the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.

In the wake of India ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities  (UNCRPD) in October,2007, it has become incumbent on India’s part, under the established and recognized international human right norms,to harmonise all its relevant domestic laws and policies with this international treaty.

Gloria Steinem famously said- “If the shoe doesn’t fit, must we change the foot?”

The PwD’s are not the unfit shoe here. We are not asking something out of reach for us rather we are pleading for universal access. A universal design will allow a senior citizen, a pregnant female, an unsteady toddler as well as persons with disabilities all to access the same public building with dignity and pride. Am I asking for too much?

This is a Guest Editorial post authored by Dr Satendra Singh

Dr Satendra Singh, MD, FSS, is an assistant professor and the  Coordinator of Enabling Unit (for students with disabilities), at University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi. He is founder of ‘Infinite Ability’ – a special interest group on disability within Medical Humanities Group of Medical Education Unit. He is 2011 fellow of CMC Ludhiana FAIMER (Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education Research) fellowship and teaches Physiology to medical stu­dents. He is currently working on incorporating disability studies into medical cur­riculum. He blogs at : ‘The Enablist’

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post and the views expressed  in the article are solely that of the author. Scanned Copies of the RTI replies provided by the author is available with Dr. Soumyadeep B for anyone who requests it for verification. Dr Singh might also be contacted for details about it.  Bloggers and media person are requested to share this article and spread the world to help India become more disability friendly.

Image Courtesy : Dr Satendra Singh

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3 thoughts on “India Post: “Paper Tigers” in “ease of access for the disabled”

  1. antonmedical says:

    That’s ridiculous. This is why I don’t complain about all of the lawsuits in the US. Fear drives customer satisfaction.
    I sincerely hope that you can reach someone who honestly cares about public welfare.

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