For the disabled, it’s a breeze in Kamrup

For the disabled, it’s a breeze in Kamrup

Even while the politics of polarisation plays out in the high-stakes Assam Assembly elections, a silent effort towards inclusion is under way in the State. One such instance is the way the district administration of Kamrup Rural in Lower Assam has been trying to ensure hassle-free voting for the differently abled.

Officials at the booth, sector and zone levels in various constituencies are being sensitised to, and trained on, provisions to be made available for persons with disability in the polling stations.

Towards this, the administration has struck a partnership with Shishu Sarothi, a non-profit organisation for rehabilitation and training of people with multiple disabilities.

The provisions for the differently abled include priority without having to queue up with other voters; reserved parking space; signage; ramps to help enter the polling station; and permission to take the wheelchair inside and to bring a family member or person of choice to the station. Seats will be provided for them as well as the elderly, the infirm, pregnant women and lactating mothers.

K-DAC campaign

The Kamrup election district has set up the Kamrup-Disability Assistance Centre (K-DAC) to encourage differently abled persons to come out and vote through awareness campaigns and radio outreach.

The initiative is part of a wider campaign — “My Vote, My Assam” — to leave no voter behind, says Vinod Seshan, Deputy Commissioner, Kamrup Rural.

“The voting percentage in the district is around 75 per cent overall, but there exist pockets where the turnout is low — we have identified 120-odd locations where it is in the region of 45-50 per cent,” he says. The campaign is focussing on the differently abled, the elderly and the infirm because they mostly miss out on voting. A plan is on to felicitate the senior-most voter who turns up to vote in every booth.

The issue goes beyond sensitisation of the electoral machinery and the workforce, says Arman Ali, executive director, Shishu Sarothi, who has been named ambassador for the Kamrup election district. Political parties tend not to see the differently abled as a vote bank, he says, though their numbers could be as high as 100 million in India, going by the U.N. estimate that 10 per cent of the people globally have some kind of disability.

“A higher turnout by the differently enabled would force governments to adopt a rights-based approach towards them vis-à-vis policy-making,” he says.

Ripple effect

The initiative is having a ripple effect, with the administration in Kamrup (Metropolitan) planning to start a similar one. With more than a week to go before Lower Assam goes to polls on April 11, expect more districts to sign up to an inclusive election.

Source : The Hindu

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