Thursday, December 5, 2013

Raw Deal for Physically Challanged Voters

The Supreme Court order of 2007 to Chief Election Commissioner was the result of a letter written to the Chief Justice of India by Mr Javed Abidi, convener of the Disabled Rights Group (DRG) before the 2004 election, demanding that necessary steps be taken to make the polling process accessible to the disabled. The letter was converted into public interest litigation (PIL). Apart from ramps in polling booths and Braille-enabled EVMs, the Supreme Court judgment also says that poll personnel must be sensitised to the special needs of the disabled (hearing impaired) and be courteous to them.

This was publicized as the most high-tech polls ever but for disabled voters, it was like ostracizing in their own country. Live webcast notwithstanding, architectural, attitudinal and technological barriers confronted voters with disabilities while exercising their right to vote:  no Braille signs or ramps, an absence of Sign Language interpreters, no automatic door openers, narrow doorways and inaccessible voting machines.

On what basis does the capital of world’s largest democracy legally deprive an estimated 80,000 voters with disability of this fundamental civic right?  I complained it to the election commission as well as Chief and State Commissioner’s of Persons with Disability.

Today’s Statesman has also covered the story on page 2. Sharing it here:

RAW DEAL FOR PHYSICALLY CHALLENGED VOTERS

By Chandan Prakash Singh (singh.chandan@thestatesman.net)
New Delhi, 4 December 2013, The Staesman (Delhi Edition, page 2)


The lack of ramps and Braille signs at several polling booths, led physically challenged voters, including first timers,having a tough time in exercising their franchise for the Delhi Assembly election today.

According to Dr Satendra Singh, professor at the University College of medical Sciences (UCMS) and GTB Hospital, despite clear guidelines from the Supreme Court, disabled voters were not informed about accessible polling booths either on radio or newspapers.

“The polling booth at a training centre outside GTB Hospital, Dilshad Garden, had no ramp or Braille signage facility as several of my students, including the first timers, faced lots of trouble while casting their votes. This was just one example of such mismanagement noticed while polling as there were numerous booths.” said Dr Singh.

Ms Abha Khetarpal, wheelchair user and the president of 'Cross the Hurdles' organization, said:
"Polling booth number A 28 at Subhash Nagar, where I was supposed to cast my vote, had no ramps for wheelchairs and no Braille stickers.” She said polling booths number 11, 12, 13, 14 in Rajokri had no ramps and Braille stickers. Besides, polling booth number 13 in Rajokri had seven stairs which was inaccessible for physically disabled people.

“How can it be called government for the people, by the people and for the people. If we report this to media they ask for proof of this with pictures which is not allowed. Said Ms Khetarpal.
Shivani Gupta, another wheelchair user and President of 'AccessAbility' organization, could not cast her vote due to inaccessibility of her polling booth.

Similar situations were noticed at Mundka (Nitholi) in North West Delhi which was completely inaccessible. Some disabled voters were also seen taking pictures of booth where wheelchair users could not enter.

“I am marking the complaint to Chief Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities and State Commissioner of Person with Disabilities, Delhi, to take strict and appropriate action as disabled voters were deprived of their voting rights. I also declare, I am a person with disability myself. I am copying the mail to disabled voters mentioned above.”said Dr Satendra Singh.

On International Day of the Persons with Disabilities and just a day before the Delhi Elections, same issues were raised by me in the Hindi daily ‘Hindustan’ where election officer made false promises.Today’s ‘The Hindu’ has also raised the issue along with ‘The Times of India’. It’s now upon Election Commission to respond and rectify these grave mistakes in future. What is more ironical is the plight of persons with psychosocial impairment who are just not considered eligible for voting.


1 comment:

  1. shiela dixit should be ashamed of her self as well as manmohan singh they only know scams

    ReplyDelete