Disability access ‘worsens’ in Kolkata’s Durga Puja pandals
On October 9, when the city was soaking up the Durga Puja festivities,
Rubia Chatterjee, national gold medallist para athlete, decided to go
pandal hopping with other para athletes. She was shocked to find that
she could not enter many of the pandals . “It was horrible. I was
accompanied by another para athlete Sandhya Mondal, who was walking
with crutches. She fell down at various places,” Ms. Chaterjee told
The Hindu . Ms. Chaterjee, who was a part of a group of ten
sportspersons, had informed major Puja pandals of their visit. Many of
the pandals have average footfalls of 4 lakh people per day and are
constructed at a cost of several crores of rupees. Ms. Chatterjee and
Ms. Sandhya found no wheelchairs or ramps or even volunteers to help
them. The ‘Disability Access to Durga Puja Pandals in Kolkata: 2016’
survey of 14 marquees conducted by the Kolkata-based Civilian Welfare
Foundation (CWF) echoes these findings. CWF’s Abhirupa Kar, who has
been involved in documenting disability access at Durga Pujas pandals
for the past three years, said that the situation has worsened this
time instead of improving . “There is so much competition among Durga
Puja organisers for awards but the basic question of accessibility to
the disabled is far from receiving the serious attention of
organisers,” she told The Hindu . The report points out that giving
the disabled a restricted view of a pandal or asking them visit only
in the mornings just shows the organisers’ “discrimination, and lack
of sensitivity and understanding with regards to the disabled
population”. The report also points out that most of the pandals have
staircases, “thus rejecting the person with a disability to the major
attractions of the pandals ”. Ms. Kar said that despite the Central
government’s Accessible India campaign, no effort has been made to
include the disabled part in the celebrations for the festive season.
“The situation relating to accessibility for the disabled has not
improved over the past three years,” she said. “At a time when the
State government wants to showcase Durga Puja as a major carnival, it
cannot remain ignorant to the organisers’ apathy in keeping a
significant population out the celebrations.”

Boopathi P
PhD research scholar,
department of English Literature,
School of literary studies,
EFL University.
Mobile: +91-9843693951

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