Wheelchair tales from poll booths

Kailash Ghai, 74, took a long walk to the polling station, which is less than a kilometre away. His son, Deepak Ghai, accompanied his father who walked slowly with the help of a crutch.

When he reached the polling booth at a community hall in the JJ Colony, Pandav Nagar, in New Delhi constituency, he was patient enough to wait for 15 long minutes. Deepak said that his father has difficulty walking.

“He doesn’t need a wheelchair. But I didn’t know that they have a wheelchair here,” he added. “Nobody has used the wheelchair since morning,” an attendant deputed on election duty said.

The Delhi Election Commission in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in the city adopted a disabled-friendly approach.

In each polling station, a wheelchair and an attendant were available to help the disabled and elderly people to vote seamlessly. But many voters said that they were not aware about this initiative.

Little space

At some polling booths, bamboo poles meant to separate queues left little space for wheelchairs to make their way in.

“This is happening for the first time. So there are some problems in execution,” an election officer at a polling station in Laxmi Nagar said.

At many places, there were no placards to suggest that the EC has adopted a disabled-friendly approach. According to an estimate, there were more than 80,000 disabled voters in this election.

Friendly experiences

Twenty-six-year-old Sanjeev Kumar,  who ekes out a living by driving an e-autorickshaw, had the first hassle-free voting experience. “The arrangements at the booth was such that I faced no difficulty. I was escorted in a wheelchair till the exit of the station,” said Kumar, who is differently-abled.

Kumar voted in a booth in Angoori Bagh in Chandni Chowk constituency.

At a booth in Hauz Quazi, 52-year-old Shaheda Begum said, “Every time I come to vote, I receive injuries because of the lack of ramp at booths. This is the only time there was good arrangement for the differently-abled.”

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