Leading the march were Brinda Karat and leading members of the National Platform Kanti Ganguly, Sailen Chaudhury, P Mohanan and O Vijayan, Namburajan, G Ramulu, and Subash Gupta. Participating organisations included the Paschim Banga Pratibandhi Sammelini, the Differently Abled Welfare Federation, the Karnataka Rajya Angavikalara Mattu Palakara Okkota, Tamilnadu Association for the Rights of all Types of Disabled and Caregivers, Jharkhand Viklang Manch, and the Vibhinna Prathiba Vanthula Hakkula Vedika, Andhra Pradesh. There were contingents also from Haryana, Gujarat, Rajasthan etc. Then there were participants from organisations which were not associated with the platform like the Human Rights Law Network, the Aarth-Aasta, the National Association of the Deaf, the Deafway Foundation etc.
What was most shocking was the insensitivity of the railways. This is amply reflected in various obstacles put before the West Bengal contingent before they could finally make it to Delhi. Initially, the railways refused to give a special train at concessional rates, despite the disabled being entitled to concessions. Later on after the matter was pursued vigorously, the railways decided to run a special train between Howrah and Delhi. The train which was scheduled to reach Delhi at around 1.30 am on April 20 finally reached at around 10.30 am. This was not all. The railways left no stone unturned to ensure that the disabled passengers faced a very difficult time. Despite the train making long unscheduled stops all along the route, water in the washrooms were not replenished, putting the passengers to discomfort. It is only after reaching Lucknow that too after being forced by the passengers that the railway authorities filled water. On their return journey too, even though the train was parked at Anand Vihar station for more than eight hours water was not filled. After the agitated disabled passengers raised a hue and cry, the authorities promised to fill water at Ghaziabad. But it was done only a few stations later long after Ghaziabad had passed. When the matter was raised in the Rajya Sabha by Brinda Karat an infuriated minister for railways, Mamata Banerjee instead of assuaging the feelings of the disabled passengers turned intemperate and accused them of misutilising the water provided in the washrooms.
Kanti Ganguly, leader of the Sammelini and minister in the West Bengal government, addressing the dharna accused the union railway minister for attempting to settle political scores. He detailed the hurdles and troubles that the disabled persons encountered even while traveling by a so-called special train. The “special” treatment meted out to these passengers by the railways came in for universal condemnation by the participants. He vowed alongwith the participants from the Paschim Banga Rajya Prathibandi Sammelni to not take it lying down and fight back.
Speaking at the dharna, Brinda Karat drew attention to the lack of sensitivity to the issues concerning the disabled. She cautioned that no society can consider itself democratic unless it is able to provide equal opportunities to all its citizens, including persons with disabilities. Congratulating the participants she maintained that it is only because the disabled have organised and have started asserting themselves that the movement for their rights has gained momentum. She called upon the democratic forces to include disability issues as part of their agenda.
Others who spoke were P Mohanan from Kerala, Pankaj Das from West Bengal, Sumati from Andhra Pradesh, Aparna from Tamilnadu, Menna Kumari from Jharkhand and Rajiv Raturi from the Human Resources Law Network. Sign language interpreter from the Deafway Foundation, Gaganpreet Kaur translated the proceedings into sign language for the benefit of those with hearing disability.