HYDERABAD: A whole set of 10 steps is what one was greeted within the ‘Accessible Telangana Elections’ of this year at a polling station in Charminar. In a picture which is now viral on Twitter, an elderly couple can be seen guiding each other up, to cast their vote. It was not just the case in Charminar, other areas within the city like Shaikpet, Malakpet etc and others in the interior districts had those few odd polling stations without a ramp.
Though the whole buzz around accessibility was deeply appreciated by most senior citizens and PWD voters, the accessibility offered to them had issues aplenty. Many booths in Amberpet had absurd things like cloth carpets that caused wheelchairs to slip, many others had steep incline rendering the lone volunteer helpless, and almost all ramps had no hand railing to take support of.
The situation was so fraught in some areas that the PWD’s went back home disappointed. In Shaikpet, for instance, at the IEA School which was a polling station for Jubilee Hills Assembly constituency, there was no ramp facility, forcing the volunteers to lift the PWD voters physically onto 4 stairs and lead them inside. “We had 4 locomotives, disabled persons, here and lifted them personally inside,” said a volunteer on condition of anonymity. A similar situation existed in Malakpet polling station no.88/58. In Charminar’s polling stating 142/66, there were a whopping 10 stairs to climb to be able to reach the polling station.
This despite the fact that EC had invested heavily on arranging student volunteers and having an app called- Vaada to take in requests for assistance, but the most basic infrastructure was found wrong at many polling booths.
Another major issue noted was that majority of the volunteers as well had not been trained in the basics of PWD assistance. For instance, at many polling stations, the volunteers were seen taking the aged voters on wheelchairs, down the steep incline, face down, as against the practice of back facing pull.
“We did not get any training. Only our principal madam had given us a sheet of basic hand gestures to use with deaf and dumb voters. I have been using google,” added another volunteer.
However, voters from PWD community were happy that they received such specific attention from EC. “I feel happy. I am a poor man who was given dignity and respect just to cast my vote. I thank the government,” said K Narasimhaiah, a voter from Khairatabad.