Amarjot Kaur and Kaveesha Kohli
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, May 19
Weathering the hot blows of the summer sun, physically challenged and chronically ill persons were spotted at almost all polling stations, voicing their concerns over the future of the nation. There are reportedly 3,157 differently abled voters in the city.
City’s Chief Electoral Officer Ajoy Kumar said the department had done the audit of polling stations across the city for persons with disabilities. “About 24 vehicles were pressed into service of the differently abled in the city. Also, every polling booth was provided with wheelchairs,” he added.
About 500 wheelchairs were deployed at the polling booths across the city and NSS volunteers were helping people.
“People have been calling me since morning to express joy at the fact that they could vote with ease. It is for the first time that such initiative has been undertaken. The motto this time was ‘accessible election’,” said Sandeep Kumar, Nodal Officer.
Ganesh Sharma (30), a resident of Sector 44-D, suffers 10 per cent disability. “I cannot walk at all. I’m voting for the second time and the Election Commission provided me with a special car, volunteer and wheelchair. I want India to be on a par with foreign countries in every way,” he says.
Harman Sidhu, president and founder of Arrive Safe, whose spinal cord injury left him wheelchair-bound, said: “I voted to do my duty. I have 25 petitions on removing the liquor shops on highways, but there has been no change so far.”
For 50-year-old Nisha Rani, who was being ferried to the polling station by her children, the election season spells hope. “My children are growing up; they are through with their studies now and all I can wish for is an advent of a government that addresses the issue of unemployment. I’m here to vote for change,” she said.
Battling a severe case of arthritis, Banarsi Dass Gulati (64) spoke about the need for developing and strengthening the nation.
Ram Saran Das Bhateja (81) arrived at the Sector 21 polling station with the help of a walker and wearing a mask as he was prone to picking up infections. “He made sure that everyone in our home voted,” said Bhateja’s son, Rohit.
Raj Rani Sharma (83), who was assisted by the wheelchair, said that it made it easier for her to vote. “I had to make sure I contribute to the victory of my leader,” said she. Wheelchair-bound, Soma Rani, 75, echoed a similar motivation for coming out to vote.
Making a difference
An independent filmmaker, Shivinder Singh Virdi (35), who suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, said: “The development so far has only been on paper. I am here to make whatever little difference I can.”
According to Harman Sidhu, the booth in the Sector 21 government school was not properly audited to cater to the needs of the differently abled.
The exit from the polling booth required a long walk through the school’s uneven playground.
“As per the ECI directions to all electoral state offices, such a long walk is not allowed as it gives a hard time to anyone who is infirm,” Sidhu added.
Rohit Bhateja who helped his wheelchair-bound father said: “The ECI must consider allocating separate booths for people with disabilities.”
Cancer patient votes in sector 21
A 37-year-old woman, who has been suffering from cancer for the past one-and-a-half year voted in Sector 21. Election commission officials assisted her by allowing her to cast her vote without standing in the queue.
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