Maharashtra government on Thursday assured the high court here that it would immediately remove all barriers from public buildings to allow smooth movement to physically challenged and the elderly.
A division bench of justices Sharad Bobde and MN Gilani asked the government to file a reply informing about efforts taken in this regard in two weeks and also to furnish details regarding expenditure of Rs 7.60 crore funds released by the Centre for every state for welfare of handicapped and senior citizens. These funds were allocated in October last year for construction of hand rails and ramps in government buildings that are frequently used by people.
The court further directed the state to constitute a coordination committee having politicians and bureaucrats for welfare of such citizens. When the additional government pleader Bharti Dangre stated it might be in existence, the judges tersely asked the government to then "wake up" its members. The bench was hearing a plea filed by a city-based disabled scientist PN Andhare through his counsel Trupti Udeshi who is also physically handicapped.
The petitioner, who is 80% disabled, had filed the PIL through an NGO Indradhanu praying for compliance of Maharashtra government resolution of 2005 that mandated facilities for disabled. Secretary Prakash Sohoni is another petitioner. As per the duo, local authorities including the NMC should make efforts to implement by-laws, guidelines and measures to ensure a barrier-free built environment and non-discrimination in transport for the handicapped and senior citizens.
Even the banks and NMC failed to set up ramps or a guide rail for such persons. Pointing out several lacunae on the roads and footpaths, petitioners claimed that they were laid in such a way that it becomes difficult for both disabled and elderly to move. Encroachments on all footpaths created further obstacles to movement.
They contended that despite Lokayukta's recommendations, the master transportation plan for the city had no provisions for disabled. There was no monitoring system by which implementation of the Persons for Disabilities Act could be verified. Additionally, there was no grievance redressal mechanism by which these issues could be resolved. Citing reply to an RTI query, the petitioners claimed that NMC could not cite even a single government building where facilities were provided for the disabled.
During last hearing, the court asked the Indian Institute of Architects (IIA) to conduct a survey of all the government/semi-government buildings in the city regarding such facilities. The IIA has been told to take help of Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) town planning officer and submit report in four months.