Ensuring a free and fair poll is not merely stopping corruption, but also ensuring that every citizen has the right circumstance to cast his/her ballot.
This is the slogan of a number of groups of persons who, year after year, have complained about inability to access polling booths.
“Based on our experiences from the last polls (Parliamentary elections in 2009) we have drawn up a list of demands in order that access to polls is easier this time,” S. Namburajan of Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of all Types of Differently Abled and Caregivers (TARATDAC), said.
While some ramps were provided during the last elections, they were done only on a trial basis and were insufficient. The demand this year is to ensure that ramps are provided for all polling booths, D. Lakshmanan, also of TARATDAC explained.
According to a Surpreme Court order in 2009, the entire process of the elections, from campaign to casting vote should be made accessible, says Meenakshi B, who is part of the Disability Legislation Unit of Vidya Sagar.
P. Simmachandran, member, Differently Abled Persons Welfare Board, said, while last time Braille voting sheets were provided, they were in English and not of much use, he added. Also, about 30 per cent of the blind are unable to use the Braille unit and therefore, voice software should be appended to the machine.
Senior Citizen Bureau representative M. Singaraja said while announcements have been made that a separate queue would be formed for senior citizens, they are hardly ever followed. Another suggestion was to provide a separate bench for senior citizens who can be seated while they wait for their turn.
R. Gopinath of the Dwarfs Association in Tamil Nadu said a temporary arrangement of using a stool or steps to enable the short people to vote must be put in place. These recommendations, and others, have been recorded with the State Commissioner for the Welfare of the Differently Abled. That office has promised to forward the list of demands to the Chief Election Officer.
In addition the team met the Tamil Nadu CEO Praveen Kumar and handed over their memorandum, Mr. Namburajan added.