Suvarna Raj, a para-athlete who was given an upper berth to sleep in.
Suvarna Raj, a para-athlete who was given an upper berth to sleep in.Twitter

While the Ministry of Railways is busy working on projects like E5 series Japanese Shinkansen high-speed trains equipped with western toilets with hot water and washrooms with triple mirrors for make-up, international medal-winning para-athlete Suvarna Raj was forced to sleep on the floor of a train after being allotted an upper berth seat.

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The wheelchair-bound athlete, who boarded Nagpur-New Delhi Garib Rath Express on Saturday evening, had to sleep on the train floor throughout the night when Train Ticket Examiner (TTE) turned a deaf ear to her logical requests to be allotted a lower berth. While being ignored by railway authorities, Suvarna also was subjected to sheer insensitivity by fellow passengers who refused to coordinate with her.

"When I asked fellow passengers to exchange seat with me, they bluntly refused," said the disability rights activist.

Suvarna then took to demanding to meet Union Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu and asking him to take cognizance on this matter. "I want to meet Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu and tell him about the problems we have to face while travelling on trains. Disabled people suffer a lot in trains," Suvarna told ANI.

However, when Prabhu ordered an enquiry into the issue and said that ensuring a smooth travel for the disabled was indeed a serious issue for the railways, Suvarna said that an enquiry was not a solution to the harassment faced by people with disabilities in India.

"I don't want any enquiry, I want a permanent solution for persons with disabilities in India," said Suvarna who suffers 90 percent disability as a result of polio infection.

And indeed her words are justified. When people like Suvarna can fetch medals for India at Thailand Para Table Tennis Open 2013, perhaps taking care of their basic needs is the least India can do. No amount of GDP growth or pride of launching the heaviest rocket can undo the damage that incidents like these do to India's image.