Voters of a leprosy colony in Bankura district of east Indian state West Bengal on Monday exercised their franchise freely as a polling booth was marked exclusively for them inside a hospital where doctors turned into polling personnel.
As part of a special drive by the Election Commission to ensure voting by all sections of the society in large numbers, a model polling booth was set up inside Gauripur Leprosy Hospital situated at Kalyanpur, one of the oldest leprosy hospitals in India.
The booth has 320 voters registered in the roll, who are either leprosy patients or belong to a leprosy-afflicted family. "It is a model polling booth which has all facilities like electric-run vehicles to bring voters who have difficulties in walking. Inside the booth we have arranged wheelchairs for them," local block development officer Suprabhat Chatterjee said.
For leprosy patients admitted in the hospital, the entire process to exercise their fundamental democratic right this assembly election was very easy as they just had to be carried to another room by the hospital staff.
Another district official said since the hospital staff and doctors were involved in the polling process, there was no question of any discrimination against the voters.
Although the disease does not spread through touch, leprosy patients are forced to live in colonies even after getting cured. India accounts for more than half of leprosy cases reported worldwide. In 2013-14, the Union health ministry estimated that 1.27 lakh new cases were reported. States in India like Bihar, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Maharashtra and the union territory of Dadar and Nagar Haveli are among the worst affected.