Telangana 2018

Telangana Assembly Elections 2018: Number of voters with disabilities triples

Success story: M. Srinivasulu campaigning for the TRS party. Sircilla candidate K.T. Rama Rao looks on.  

The size of the electorate in Telangana has shrunk by a few lakh voters. But, the number of voters who are classified as persons with disabilities has nearly tripled over the past two months. In the first week of October, the Telangana Election Commission detailed the updated rolls for the State. It listed 2,35,299 persons with disabilities as voters. This number has nearly tripled to about 7 lakh.

This change is in no small measure due to the effort of M. Srinivasulu, a person with a locomotor disability, who began with a Right to Information application with the Election Commission of India.

“As per ECI orders in 2016 and 2018: How many persons with disabilities (PwDs) voters are identified and tagged to polling booths/stationwise in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh state.” And; “Are you following 21 types of disabilities as per the Rights of Persons With Disabilities Act, 2016. So please provide soft copies...Disability wise detailed list.”

Within a few weeks, things have changed dramatically for People with Disabilities. “We have mapped 6,50,000 PwDs based on the certificates they have provided. We are creating every possible facility to ensure that they can vote without a hurdle. For the first time in the country, we have Elector’s Photo Identity Card (EPIC) with Braille script and volunteers with Braille ballots,” B. Sailaja, Commissioner & Director, Welfare of Disabled told The Hindu on Saturday.

How this transformation has come about is a story of grit, determination and political pragmatism of a group of activists led by Mr. Srinivasulu.

This is not the only aspect of the change being advocated by Mr. Srinivasulu. He shows a letter written by the Commissioner & Director, Welfare of Disabled which lists measures to enhance the enrolment of voters and includes the 21 categories of disabled as defined by the Disabilities Act 2016.

The facilities on the ground are also improving, though all activists are not very happy. The newest addition to the Government Primary School in Attapur is a set of three ramps for helping voters with disabilities to manoeuvre their wheelchair into the polling booth for the December 7 election in Telangana.

One of the ramps has a 50-degree angle and doesn’t have the railings. “The government allocates ₹14,000 for each of these ramps. But they are useless for voters with disabilities,” says Mr. Srinivasulu, who has hit the campaign trail for the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).

“I am campaigning for the TRS in this election. Telangana has issued a number of GOs to implement the Disabilities Act. Nationally, most of the Acts that have been implemented such as RTI or RTE or MGNREGA are linked to political activism. Without political advocacy, the ground reality doesn’t change,” says Mr. Srinivasulu, who was a member of the National Draft Committee which worked on ‘The Rights of Persons With Disabilities Act 2016’.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 8:56:13 AM |

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