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Taj & 144 other gems to be disabled- friendly.

SOLAR wheelchairs, battery- driven carts and special toilets are among the facilities the government plans to set up at 145 cultural wonders such as the Taj Mahal and Jagannath Temple to ensure accessibility for the differently abled in a country that has a poor record on inclusive infrastructure.

The Archaeological Survey of India ( ASI), a government agency attached to the ministry of culture, has identified 50 such ancient sites for the initial phase and prepared a list of some monuments under its Adarsh Smarak Yojana-- that witness very high tourist footfall

Continued from page 1 disabled-friendly measures would be implemented first. The list includes the Ajanta and Ellora Caves of Maharashtra, Delhi's Qutb Complex and Red Fort, Rajasthan's Ranthambore Fort and Brahma Temple, Group of Monuments at Hampi in Karnataka and Odisha's Konark Sun Temple. Analysts say the step is crucial in India with at least 50-80 million differently abled people who have to frequently fight discrimination and stigma while underdeveloped infrastructure in many parts of the country makes it difficult for them to get around. "The initiatives have been taken up as part of the 'Accessible India Campaign' conceptualised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi," DEPwD joint secretary Mukesh Jain told MAIL TODAY. "The programme is being executed under the direction of the DEPwD (department of empowerment of persons with disabilities) only as we are making all heritage and religious sites disabled- friendly by introducing special arrangements for 'Divyang' people." In an ambitious move to enable persons with disabilities to gain universal access, the Centre had launched the "Accessible India Campaign" (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) in December, last year. The programme seeks to make at least 50 per cent of all government buildings in the national capital and all state capitals "fully accessible" for the disabled by July 2018. "The upgrade to these archaeological sites will not be uniform. Each monument will be assessed first and then works will be taken up accordingly as per requirement," the ASI official said on condition of anonymity. The issue was discussed in a recent meeting with the joint secretary of the ministry of social justice and empowerment as well as officials from the DEPwD, the disability division in the ministry of social justice & empowerment. "The DEPwD is providing facilities at 145 identified places by the department. The process will kick-start soon with at least 50 monuments as of now. The ASI has identified the sites in consultation with the DEPwD," said a source at the ministry of culture. The officials said there were discussions on the introduction of solar wheelchairs and battery- driven carts while brail signage, tactile floors or pathways, special toilets and railings, etc, would be put up at the archaeological sites to facilitate the entry of differently abled people. All these facilities would be created without modifying the actual structures. There are plans to involve attendants at some of these archaeological sites so that they can assist the Divyang (disabled) people around the place. At present, 25 out of 3,680 protected monuments in India have been selected under the Adarsh Smarak Yojana. This includes the Taj Mahal, Khajuraho Group of Monuments, Qutb Complex and Red Fort. A top ASI official, however, said the list of Adarsh monuments has been revised with the count going up to 100 from 25. The list will be made public soon. By awarding these sites the Adarsh monument tag, the central government gives them special attention in a bid to boost international tourism.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jul 1, 2016
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