Early on Monday, Virali Modi, a motivational speaker and disability rights activist, was travelling to Mumbai from Delhi when she said she was subjected to harassment by CISF staff for being unable to stand. Virali has been paralyzed for the past 13 years.
Virali, who had a spinal cord injury in 2006, has been wheelchair-bound for more than a decade. A US resident, she says that she has never had to face such discrimination or harassment at international airports.
On entering the airport, Modi was asked to surrender her personal wheelchair as per the norms. She was assigned a porter who took her to the security check-in section. It was then that her ordeal began, she wrote in a Facebook post.
Virali wrote that one a CISF woman asked her if she could stand up. When the latter reiterated that she could not, the CISF told her that she would have to. They also informed her that she would have to leave her wheelchair behind and walk to the cubicle for her security check.
"I told them repeatedly that I had been paralysed for 13 years and there was no way I could walk. I told her that if she could make me stand up, then she could go for it," Virali told News18.
Following this, Virali said she overheard the CISF woman speaking ill about her to her colleagues. "She kept saying that I was doing 'drama' and that I could easily stand but wasn't willing to. I was almost in tears at this point. When I confronted her about it, she began yelling at me and told me that she was speaking about someone else," Virali said.
Virali said that after the confrontation, a senior CISF woman came to her aid; a manual pat-down was executed and she was allowed to go. She also said that she filed an official complaint with the CISF headquarters, screenshots of which have been attached below:
We reached out to the CISF spokesperson who said that a complaint has been filed and an investigation will follow.
Virali pointed out that a few years ago she faced a similar incident at Mumbai airport where the CISF staff insisted she stand up. When she said she couldn't, one of the woman pulled so hard at her leg that she had to be hospitalised.
"No airport in India has special provisions for people with disabilities. You can't treat everyone the same way. People might have severe disabilities and they deserve to be treated with sensitivity. Look at international airports, there you don't even have to shift from your personal wheelchairs. It's much more convenient," Virali said.
She also referred to the Accessible India campaign that had been launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the year 2015. "The campaign is aimed at differently-abled individuals. Yet there has been no implementation so far," she said.