Volume 3 Issue 4 - February 15, 2005

Krishnamurthy found guilty of failing to provide facilities for disabled voters in Haryana

DNIS News Network Big promises were made by election officials in the run up to the recent election in Haryana, but disabled voters in the state were left out in the cold yet again.

The run up to the recent election in Haryana was not without frequent mention of aids and support to disabled people in the state: from election manifestos of various political parties, which talked about pension and job reservations for handicapped persons, to the Chief Election Officer, Mrs. Urvashi Gulati arranging for disabled-friendly polling booths! Probably the most exciting of all was the announcement of Braille voting machines for visually impaired voters.

However, when the elections did launch off in the state, there were in fact no special arrangements made for disabled voters. Although there were a few ramps in a few places where voting machines were placed at a height, Braille voting machines were not widely used at all. Visually impaired and blind persons still had to be accompanied by a confidante to help cast their vote. Why? What happened to the Braille voting machines?

According to the States Election Commissioner, Braille voting machines had been ruled out as it was presumed that the State did not have many disabled voters. The authorities also acted on the assumption that most of the blind population in the state would not know how to use Braille. So where does this leave those people who are Braille literate and who believe in the secrecy of the secret ballot? It seemed there was no answer to this question.

Such a blatant dearth of provisions for disabled voters invoked the ire of Haryanas Commissioner for Persons with Disability, M.S. Ahluwalia. He wrote to the Chief Election Commissioner T.S. Krishnamurthy requesting his presence in the Disability Commissioners court on February 14. Krishnamurthy failed to appear and in his absence was found guilty in regard to the charges of failing to provide adequate provisions for disabled voters.

Ahluwalia stated that ramps should be provided as a matter of course and that blind voters should be provided with a closed-room sound system to help them cast their votes in secrecy. He said that the lack of such facilities meant the election should be declared null and void and the elections should be rerun.

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