SELAYANG: Disabled Hindu devotees are sore that a promised cable car to the summit of Batu Caves has been shelved to 2013, preventing them from fully taking part in Thaipusam celebrations this year.
“There have been thousands of disabled Hindu devotees who have missed going to the top (of the cave) for prayers and devotions,” said Damai Disabled Person’s Association president V Murugeswaran in a press statement last Saturday.
He pointed out that the temple committee operated a cable car service to the top of the limestone cave some 20 years ago, but it was abandoned after it proved too costly to repair and maintain.
Murugeswaran is calling on Putrajaya to keep to the revised 2013 schedule after it was announced that the initial deadline this year could not be met.
In early 2011, Sri Maha Mariamman Temple management and Damodar Ropeways and Constructions Pty Ltd inked a Memorandum of Understanding to set up the 250-metre cable car service at a cost of RM10 million. The MoU signing was witnessed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak then.
Murugeswaran said devotees had waited in vain for the cable to be started this year. “Looks like 2012 was an empty promise,” he said.
However, he said devotees had not given up hope that next year will see the cable car project completed.
“We will wait. We want the cable car for 2013,” the wheelchair bound non-governmental leader said in a telephone interview.
He added that Thaipusam looked bleak for the handicapped as they could not fully take part in the religious festival due to the lack of disabled facilities in Batu Caves.
He took the temple committee to task for failing to heed the recommendations from disabled groups when major renovations were undertaken in January last year.
“We wrote in with engineering plans to ask for ramps, wider toilet cubicles and other things to be incorporated in the renovations,” he said.
Murugeswaran also claimed to have received the brush-off from committee members when he requested for a site visit in the middle of 2011.
He said Damai had successfully engaged various ministries and local governments in providing input on constructing disabled friendly facilities.
He added that it was not too late for the temple committee to seek the advice of Damai and build disabled friendly facilities in Batu Caves.
“Imagine being left out of the chance to carry out religious obligations due to these needless barriers,” he said.