Volume 4 Issue 6 - March 15, 2006

Disability Law Unit – South launches advocacy campaign for disabled friendly elections

D.N.I.S. News Network- As the States of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Union Territory of Pondicherry prepare to go for Assembly elections in April and May 2006, Disability Law Unit South has launched a campaign to make the election process disabled friendly and submitted demands to major political parties to address disability concerns in their election manifestoes.

Picture of Nirvachan Sadan.

State Assembly Elections are scheduled in three phases starting from 22nd April in Kerala and ending on 8th May 2006 in Tamil Nadu and Union Territory of Pondicherry. Disability Law Unit South, based at Chennai, has brought to the notice of the Election Commission that there are 18, 00,000 disabled people in Tamil Nadu alone, most of whom are not able to exercise their right and duty as a citizen to cast their vote because of architectural and other barriers at the polling stations. It has requested the Chief and State Election Commissioners (including Kerala and Pondicherry) to take measures to make the elections accessible, in accordance with Supreme Court order of 19 April 2004.

It may be recalled that Hon'ble Supreme Court, in its directives, had mandated the Election Commission to make the election process accessible to disabled people, by making sure that wooden ramps are provided at the polling stationsat least in the cities and urban areas. However, in spite of Honble Supreme Courts Order, no concrete steps were taken in the Assembly and bye-elections that took place in Haryana, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra in recent times. In October 2004, Election Commission had successfully tested the Electronic Voting Machine with Braille features, at Deonar School for the Blind, Hyderabad. However, no progress has been reported since then and no information is forthcoming as to why the said design is not being used.

Elections are also slated for Assam and West Bengal. Disability Law Unit North East is also geared up to make sure that this time disabled voters get to exercise their right to franchise with dignity. National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P) has lent its support to the efforts of Disability Law Units by writing to the Election Commission . It has requested National Disability Network (N.D.N.) Partners to build pressure on the Election Commission to make the election process in these States disabled friendly.

Disability Law Unit South is also in the process of submitting demands of disability sector to various political parties/alliances urging them to include them in their election manifestoes. Some of the important demands include: disabled people be included in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act as a nuclear unit, constitutional amendment to give minimum 3% reservation to disabled people in the local bodies, State Legislative Assemblies and Parliament, barrier-free environment and transport for disabled people, extension of unemployment pension to all categories of disabled people etc.

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