This election season, 800 million voters of the country again may miss out in casting their vote. Who are they? The specially-abled population who were eligible to vote in the past 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Since then their volume has increased, but due to no national level database of voters with disabilities, we cannot be sure.
'Access audit' survey conducted by the ECI in RK Nagar in Tamil Nadu in May 2018, has brought to light that most specially-abled voters' concerns have been the inaccessibility to ramps in poll booths, the unavailability of appropriate transport, ill-managed toilet facilities at poll booth, poorly constructed ramps and tables which have hindered them from accessing the EVM.
Further, the survey highlighted the glaring concern of insensitivity of polling staff towards the problems of the specially-abled voters. The survey discovered that most specially-abled voters felt that poll staff lacked empathy.
Tackling this problem pro-actively, the Election Commission in Buldhana, Maharashtra has constituted poll booth number 193 which has employed only specially-abled staff for managing the election process in the ongoing phase two of the Lok Sabha polls.
Speaking to ANI reporters, the presiding officer of the poll booth said that their attempt to employ only specially-abled staff was to encourage specially-abled voters to come out and cast their vote.
"This booth is being managed by specially-abled staff only. I appeal to all specially-abled persons to cast their votes to strengthen democracy," he said.
In March 2018, the Election Commission of India in a bid include these specially-abled population, had started developing the 'Strategic Framework on Accessible Elections' which has been put in action in several places where polls are currently being held.
There have been local reports from Karnataka that 180 specially-abled officers had been deployed for the Karnataka Legislative Assembly polls which were conducted where 222 seats were up for grabs in May 2018.
The second phase of Lok Sabha polls is underway in 12 states and 1 union territory on Thursday. With 95 Lok Sabha seats in the fray and 52 of them belonging to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, phase two is a battle for the southern vote.