Volume 2 Issue 18 - September 15, 2004

Campaign ahead of elections

DNIS News Network - On October 13 Maharashtra will go to the polls. Fearing that the coming assembly elections in the state will go without the polling booths being made accessible for disabled people, Disability Rights Group (DRG), a non-political advocacy organisation has decided to take action.

It has launched a campaign at several levels. Its partners at district levels have been contacted by DRG requesting them to hold campaigns to put pressure on the local authorities. Steps are also being taken to inundate the Maharashtra Election Commissioner with letters demanding that all polling booths be made accessible.

DRG has already submitted a four-page memorandum to India's six major political parties, urging them to provide voting facilities for Maharashtra's 1.5 million disabled people. It is demanding the Braille script for electronic voting machines or ballot papers, and the provision of ramps outside polling booths.

In March, prior to the general elections the group wrote to the Chief Election Commissioner requesting him to take the necessary steps to guarantee that people with disability were able exercise their universal right to participate, fully and on equal terms, in the electoral process. Following sustained protests, a Supreme Court ruling was passed directing the Election Commission to make wooden ramps as many as possible in both urban and rural areas. The Supreme Court had also ordered that in all future elections, from September 2004, not only just the Braille numerals but also the names of the candidates should be printed in Braille on the EVMs.

DRG convenor Javed Abidi said: "Ahead of the Maharashtra polls, when activists approached the Election Commissioner to see whether adequate arrangements had been made for the disabled, they were horrified to be told the Supreme Court ruling only applied to the parliamentary elections".

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