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Friday, 11 April 2014

Unfriendly polling booths in Nagpur trouble people with disabilities : Nagpur

Despite rules mandating polling stations be made disabled-friendly, many senior citizens and persons with disabilities found it difficult to cast their vote.

Sixty-two year old Shyamrao Bambole, a blind resident of Mecosabagh, said that in the municipal elections of 2012, his vehicle was allowed up to the booth. "This time the vehicles were stopped at least 100 metres away from the polling booth at Kapil Nagar Hindi Higher Secondary School. I had to walk some distance to cast my vote," he claimed.

Stating that the Election Commission of India was taking measures to increase the voter turnout, Prathmesh Wankhede, a physically challenged resident of Nari, wondered how it would be possible if booths continued to be unfriendly to handicapped and senior citizens. He suggested wheelchairs could be provided for such voters. As vehicles were prohibited from being parked near most booths, senior citizens had to walk up to 300 metres to reach the polling stations in places such as Shri Sai Parnath English High School.

At Vivekanand Nagar NMC school, when a polling official was asked about mandatory wheelchair for the elderly and the disabled, he appeared amused. "You are talking about the disabled? There are not much amenities for us here," the official said.

In some places, the elderly and people with disabilities were allowed to vote without waiting in the queue. Many voters with disabilities wanted the authorities to provide proper ramps so that wheelchairs could be taken inside. At Mahatma Gandhi Centennial school, Jaripatka, there was no ramp for disabled voters.

Elderly voters and those with physical disabilities had to take help of relatives or climb a few stairs with crutches. Jaiprakash Motwani, a physically challenged, said: "I had to be lifted along with my wheelchair as there was no ramp in the booth. I wanted to use the chance to vote for a candidate who would improve basic amenities in my locality."

City based industrialist Jaisingh Chavan, who too is physically challenged, expressed anguish over the district election office not providing wheelchairs for handicapped voters. He had to walk on his hands to cast his vote, which was very difficult. District returning officer Abhishek Krishna admitted wheelchairs could not be provided at all centres, as they could arrange only a dozen of wheel chairs. About missing ramps at many booths, the officer only said administration had tried to provide all amenities to voters. 

Source : TOI , 11th April 2014

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