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May 11th, 2019

What’s with wheelchairs at Indian airports?

In everyday life, how often do you see people in wheelchairs?

Not that much, right?

And thank goodness for that, since it means people aren’t injured or handicapped, right?

Ah well…I have news for you AND, most importantly, I have the latest question for you, in my things-about-India-that-have-puzzled-me-for-years series.

Namely, why are there so many wheelchair travellers at Indian airports?

Ready and waiting. Air India check in, Delhi airport

In January this year, when I landed in Mumbai for the marathon, on an international flight, there were 18 wheelchairs lined up.

In their own separate queue at immigration.

18.

Every single wheelchair was occupied by people who looked, visually, to be Indian, but I must confess I was too busy counting the wheelchairs, to check out their nationalities.

18 wheelchairs, each one with at least 2 accompanying family members, who all went into a separate fast track, while able bodied senior citizens such as yours truly shuffled slowly along in snaking lines.

I was so fascinated by the 18 wheelchairs, my biggest mass sighting in 36 years of Indian travel, (& I was, remember, killing time as I shuffled slowly along in the above-mentioned queues ) that I tweeted my sighting.

Thought it would amuse.

Big mistake.

Got promptly shot down on Twitter by someone with an Indian name (but, like the wheelchair occupants, I have no way of checking her nationality) who accused me of racial superiority or some such stupid nonsense.

Then a few other people followed suit with virtually identikit tweets.

“Don’t you have handicapped people in your country?”

And the usual offensive rejoinder to any criticism of India – “if you don’t like India, go back.”

Blah blah blah.

Anyway, back to my original question.

At the risk of being accused of racial slurs all over again, I’d like to ask you all, how come there are always SO many wheelchair travellers at Indian airports?

Particularly for international flights?

Checking in for an Air India flight last week at Delhi airport

A few months ago, at Delhi airport, when the lines for security stretched from here to eternity, there was nearly a riot, as wheelchair after wheelchair after wheelchair was wheeled to the head of the queue.

People were shouting and yelling, but all to no avail, as the wheelchair travellers got priority, along with their accompanying family members.

Er hello, not only do you get pushed around the airport, you get to cut the lines, too?

So, come on, all you knowledgable readers out there.

Please answer this question that has bugged me for years…

What’s with all the wheelchairs at Indian airports?

I pass no judgement on the illness/frailty/ sickness or otherwise of wheelchair travellers.

Truly I don’t.

But to thank you for what I hope will be the answer to my query, I will refer you, free gratis and for nothing, to an excellent article written by the stylish and eloquent Tunku Varadarajan a couple of years ago.

Enjoy.

3 comments to What’s with wheelchairs at Indian airports?

  • Jane Binstead

    Interesting! I make no judgement whatever….but I will say that, in Brazil (and Angola!) over 60s get priority throughout airports – security, boarding, the lot. Regardless of physical condition. A very enlightened policy we thought!

  • Liz

    Like so many things in life, abuse of benefits intended for the disabled is rife. As a consequence those who really need them suffer.

    One can only hope that karma will be visited on the abusers.

    It would be terribly unfair if those in real need had to produce medical evidence and we know the worst abusers would get that anyway.

  • Susie

    The reason for increasing numbers of wheelchairs in Airports ? – and its not only India. Mostly because more and more young adults are moving around the world for study, work or recreation and their elderly relatives are travelling to be with them. Huge international airports can be difficult and confusing to navigate both departing and arriving. The long distances between plane and security, passport control and customs and the Departure gate or Arrival Hall, plus the likely hood of a long wait in the security, passport or customs centres without a chair in sight means that the elderly traveller can be on their feet for a couple of hours, have been on and off a bus, climbed or descended several flights of stairs and walked the best part of a mile ! Add to that some creaky joints, compromised eyesight or hearing and unreliable bladder control – and a wheelchair at the Airport is the only alternative to staying home. Then Ammi jaan or Grandpa miss the graduation ceremony, or the wedding or meeting the grandchildren. Which in the words of the Orange Toddler is – “Sad”.

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