Enabling the differently abled to vote in the Lok Sabha elections, which is just three months away, a host of committed individuals, NGOs and institutions are on a mission to clear all doubts, create awareness and get as many of them registered.
Speaking to City Express, Sunil Jain, founder of Astha, an NGO and its chief enabler says, “Our goal is to reach at least 2000 differently abled people and enable them to get the voters ID before 28th of next month. We have spoken to five NGOs in Bangalore and two major companies that employ differently abled. This will require many more hands to join the initiative and the support of media is critical to make an impact and reach our target.”
The initiative that started on National Voter’s Day, will now be held every Saturday and Sunday in the premises of the supporting NGOs as well as in one or two companies where both physically and visually impaired are employed.
The response to this exercise has been tremendous with many voters registered on the first day itself at Snehadeep Trust for Disabled.
According to Jain, on the first day of the camp, there were 12 volunteers from Astha to carry on the voter registration exercise for nearly 40 visually impaired at the Snehadeep Trust.
“It was inspiring to see all these people eager to get registered. They even had all the required documents in place and it did not pose any problem to get the registration done. As we had no previous experience; it took us some time to get acquainted with the process. The presence of volunteers from SmartVote was of great help,” one of the volunteers said.
“By the end of the day, we had uploaded five applications and also scanned documents for another 13 people. We will complete the uploading of applications this week and also submit the signed applications with the documents to the election commission’s office soon,” he added.
Pooja Gandhi, the well known Kannada actress is supporting them in this initiative and she believes that disability is only in the body and not the mind and the differently abled, given an opportunity, are an asset for the development of the country.
However, the Astha founder laments that the awareness about online facilities for registration is pretty dismal among differently abled and some visually impaired youngsters are not even aware of the braille facility for voting while some are skeptical about accessibility to the polling booths.
Jain states, “Our next course of action will be to reach out to as many people as possible. It will be a relentless effort to register and bring in awareness on the need to vote. Astha is also in communication with the Election Commission, both at the state and the central level, to formulate an effective plan so that the infrastructure and the facilities are disabled friendly on the day of voting. It is very important for the differently abled and their family members to realise that the time has come to be proactive and take the initial step in nation building process by casting their vote. For any individual, voting is an access to their freedom, choice and responsibility. I don’t think this is any different for differently abled.”
Astha and other supporting NGOs want to approach this issue from the premise that differently abled people will do whatever is required so that they go, vote and express their political mandate as a matter of their privilege and not like any deprived right.
“If the government and the authorities pay attention to this aspect and come forward to lend their supporting hand, they are most welcome and we will be thankful for that. But not providing facilities or support from any authorities cannot and should not deter any differently abled to come out and vote,” signs off Sunil Jain.