Volume 2 Issue 22 - November 15, 2004

Arunachal polling booths not disabled-friendly

DNIS News Network - A check of some polling booths in Arunachal Pradesh on election day reveals a sorry state of disabled-friendliness.

On election day in Arunachal Pradesh, a two-member team from the Disability Law Unit North-East (DLU) - which is based in Shishu Sarothi, Guwahati, and is a partner of National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), New Delhi - set off to do a reality check of the polling booths in Naharlagun area in Arunachal Pradesh. Polling booths in Naharlagun were supposed to be barrier-free, as per the assurance given by the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer. The team from DLU checked and inspected 10 polling booths, took photographs and noted statements from the respective presiding officers. To their utter dismay, they found that almost no facilities were provided to make the polling booths accessible and barrier-free for disabled voters.

They drew the concerned officials' attention to the Supreme Court's interim order passed in April. Prior to the Parliamentary elections, all the states and the union territories across the country had been directed to make polling booths accessible - thus enabling persons with disability to exercise their right to franchise on the day of polling. The members complained that non-provision of facilities for disabled voters was an outright violation of the Supreme Court order.

The members alleged that almost all the booths were inaccessible, some even for normal 'able' people. Ketaki Bardalai, Head, DLU, North-East, and Secretary, Shishu Sarothi, said that the so called 'facilities' arranged by the authorities in Naharlagun smacked of tokenism. "It seemed to make a mockery of all the sacrifice and anguish of the persons with disabilities," she said, "and their campaign for the right to dignity in exercising their franchise."

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