Monday, February 9, 2015

IMPACT: Disability Commissioner takes the 'inadequate wheelchairs' matter with EC

It was earlier highlighted in the national daily that polling booths do not have enough wheelchairs this time (Times of India,  6 Feb 2015). I complained personally to both Election Commission of India as well as Commissioner, Disabilities (GNCTD). The later responded on 6th Feb as:

Dear Dr.Singh
The matter has been taken up with Government of India and the Chief Electoral Officer for doing the needful.
Commissioner (Disabilities)
Subsequently, notice was sent to Office of Chief Electoral Office and it was learnt that poll body will be providing 300 more wheelchairs. Times of India covered the news next day.

NEW DELHI: The chief electoral officer, Delhi, has decided to arrange for 300 more wheelchairs at polling stations to help elderly and voters with disabilities.

There will also be hydraulic lifts at four polling stations in southwest Delhi. The decision came after TOI reported that the number of wheelchairs provided to polling booths has been reduced to 400 from 2,600 in the general elections in 2014.

Following request for suo motu cognizance of the matter based on the TOI report confirming that voters with disabilities and elderly might face difficulty at polling booths on Saturday, the commissioner for disabilities, who has quasi-judicial powers, took up the matter with the government of India and CEO.
"We are arranging for 300 additional wheelchairs. There will also be hydraulic lifts in four polling stations in southwest district," CEO Chandra Bhushan Kumar said. The extra wheelchairs will be deployed in group polling stations and can be immediately moved out in case of need, Rajesh Goyal, joint chief electoral officer, said.

However, activists feel the number is still inadequate and are questioning how the CEO and ministry of social justice and empowerment managed to provide many more wheelchairs in April 2015 "at a short notice yet are unable to do so this time".

"Since adequate wheelchairs are not being arranged for, the CEO should have notified the voters that they can carry their own wheelchairs instead of keeping them in the dark. Many elderly and disabled voters will turn up at the polling stations expecting wheelchair facilities based on past experience. A total of 700 wheelchairs are not even 50% of what is needed. The ministry of social justice and empowerment should have taken care of this as it is a national duty," Dr Satendra Singh of University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi University, said.

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