Disabling their right to vote
Not handicap, but lack of infrastructure and empathy made it tough for differently abled to reach booths, reports Sidhartha Roy.delhi Updated: May 08, 2009 01:02 IST
Sitting in a plastic chair in his balcony, 28-year-old Amit Sehgal watched voters go in and come out of the polling station across the road, but did not vote himself.
With his legs paralysed due to a nerve ailment, Sehgal can’t walk even a few steps unassisted and there was no one to take him to the booth.
Sehgal can’t afford a wheelchair. But even those disabled voters who can, found their way barred by inadequate infrastructure and insensitive officials at polling stations. “The ramp to the polling booth is broken and the door is half barricaded by bamboo poles, making them too narrow for a wheelchair to pass,” said Neeru Gautam (35), who voted at West Patel Nagar.
Her friend Pammy Gogia, had to face worse at another polling station after the gate of the polling station was locked with only a small inlet. The policemen on duty couldn’t find the keys and Gogia had to be lifted with her wheelchair so she could enter the building.
The sanctity of secret voting was lost to visually-challenged persons when braille ballot papers could not be provided to them at several booths.
Election officials in 22 Balimaran polling station in Gali Quasim Jan said they did not receive any braille ballot papers and so allowed visually-challenged voters to take help of others. “We do not have the facility. When visually-challenged voters come, we allow them to take assistance of others,” said Presiding Officer of the polling station M M.
Polling booths in many areas in the city didn’t have the facility. “It was the job of local bodies like MCD to equip booths and we can’t provide so many wheelchairs. We didn’t get any complaint from voters; however, if they did we can’t escape blame,” said Akash Mohapatra, Additional Chief Electoral Officer.