HYDERABAD: With elections to Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) round the corner, the 14 lakh plus disabled persons in the city are a worried lot. Their anxieties are over provision of absence of facilities in polling booths.
Speaking to Deccan Chronicle, one such voter, who has Multiple Sclerosis shares, “Walking in such a large crowd causes disorientation. Also, we are told that we would be given priority at the entrance queue, but it did not happen earlier, so what is the guarantee that it would happen now.”
According to Election Commission of India’s guidelines, there must be Assured Minimum Facilities (AMF) at polling stations. At the polling booths, these include signage, help desk, polling booth at the ground floor, obstacle-free wide levelled pathway from entrance to the voting compartment, ramp as per GOI standards, accessible toilets, drinking water, separate entry and exit points, lighting, accessible furniture, Braille ballot guide, adjustable Braille embossed EVMs, wheel chairs, booth volunteers and display of accessible posters on information pertaining to voting.
However, none of these guidelines are in full implementation, or so it seems from the previous elections, said All India Disabled Rights’ Forum (AIDRF) member Kolli Nageswara Rao.
“It is the same story during every election. We have to go around asking people to help us cast our vote. There is no polling booth in the city that can be called barrier-free. We have given repeated representations but to no avail. This election is not going to be on the EVM, but rather ballot paper. Will they have Braille on them for the visually impaired? There is no guarantee of that,” he said.
Similarly, K Ram of the Differently Abled Chambers of Commerce and Industries (DACCI) said that all the polling stations must be disabled-friendly.
“They must have a ramp, which can be used by senior citizens, as well. We have given a representation to the Commissioner of Women, Child and Disabled Welfare department. She said the works for the same would be completed,” Ram pointed out.
GHMC commissioner Lokesh Kumar, said that all facilities as mandated by ECI would be made available.