Two specially-abled women, Jeeja Ghosh Nag and Kuhu Das have alleged gross mistreatment by Kolkata Airport staff and GoAir while they were travelling to Delhi for a conference to discuss the rights of disabled women.
Jeeja Ghosh Nag
Jeeja Ghosh is an accomplished professional and social worker. Born with Cerebral Palsy, Jeeja has made it her life’s mission to fight for the rights of specially-abled people and believes in the ‘rights approach’. 2006 she completed her second masters in Disability Studies from Leeds University, UK and has presented several papers in national and international forums.
A documentary film named I’m Jeeja has been made based on her life produced by PSBT & Doordarshan of India. The film “I’m Jeeja” won the National Film Award 2016 from the Government of India as the best film for social issues in the non-feature film category.
Even with all these accomplishments, Jeeja has faced mistreatment. Jeeja has said that the GoAir staff mistreated her at Kolkata Airport while she was travelling to Delhi to attend Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
Jeeja has said that the staff of GoAir did not give her a wheelchair and had no one to push the wheelchair for her. Then, they questioned her as to why she did not have an escort travelling with her.
“On reaching the counter, I requested for a wheelchair to go for security check and then proceed for boarding, Ghosh said. “But the GoAir representative would not let me in. She asked me to wait, but did not provide any explanation.”
“I realised the airline did not have a wheelchair ready and also did not have anyone to push the wheelchair. I was made to stand for at least 15 minutes,” Ghosh said.
The other people who were travelling with her went ahead, while she was made to wait.
Ratnaboli Ray who was travelling with Jeeja said she received a call from SpiceJet who in turn accused her of abandoning Jeeja. “The caller (a lady) accused me of abandoning her and insisted I go and escort her in. I told her it was their job to provide a wheelchair. Later another person called up and said Jeeja was agitated, we went back to the check-in counter although we had already proceeded for boarding,” Ray said.
GoAir has now reportedly issued an apology:
“GoAir sincerely apologises for the unfortunate incident that took place during the check-in process of a passenger with a disability on GoAir flight G8102 from Calcutta to Delhi. The disabled passenger did not pre-book a wheelchair but asked for one at the check-in counter. The duty staff upon realising all three wheelchairs allocated for the said flight were occupied, informed the passenger that she will try to source a wheelchair. It took a few minutes to arrange a wheelchair. GoAir apologises for the delay in sourcing the wheelchair,” the statement said. “Wheelchair was sourced and provided for and the passenger was escorted all the way to the aircraft door by the GoAir staff. The duty staff have personally apologised to the passenger and expressed regret for the inconvenience caused to the passenger.”
Kuhu Das is Founder and Director, Association for Women with Disabilities, and an activist for women’s rights. She is a woman with locomotor disability. Das has also alleged mistreatment by the Kolkata Airport Staff.
Kuhu Das has said that she was asked by Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) staff to take off her jeans as she wears calliper on her leg.
Das, who was also travelling to attend the conference on the rights of women with disability alleged that CISF personnel, a woman, insisted that she would have to take off her pants as she had never seen such callipers.
Other passengers raised an alarm and protested the manner in which CISF staff was treating her. Eventually, higher officials stepped in and the matter was resolved.
Das has also said that she was shocked that the Airport staff was so insensitive.
According to a report in DNA, Das said, “Were they not been trained and sensitized?” she asked. She added that as the experience shows, people with disability suffer despite so much fight for rights.
In 2016, SpiceJet, another budget airline was asked to pay Jeeja Ghosh Nag Rs. 10 lakh in compensation after in 2012, she was removed from the flight at the insistence of the pilot because she suffered from cerebral palsy.