Disability rights activist Jeeja Ghosh to motivate the differently-abled to vote
Kolkata: With the Election Commission of India (ECI) taking all possible measures to make differently-abled voters take part in exercising their franchise, disability rights activist Jeeja Ghosh has been made the brand ambassador in Bengal.
"We had approached Jeeja with the request of being our face to motivate persons with disabilities to vote. After she agreed, we took the approval of the ECI and now, she is steering our campaign. We have made a short video where Jeeja will be appealing to disabled voters to cast their votes in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections," a senior official of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Bengal, said.
Jeeta, who is currently a faculty member of Kolkata's Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy (IICP), had hogged the limelight in 2012 when she was deplaned for being differently-abled. She moved the Supreme Court that ordered the airlines to pay her compensation.
Sources in the CEO office said Jeeja's campaign has been instrumental in enrollment of more disabled voters in the electoral rolls in the state. The ECI has introduced the accessibility observer in the Lok Sabha polls specially to bring the 'Persons with Disabilities' (PWD) voters to the polling stations.
"We have deputed six divisional commissioners as accessibility observers who will mainly look into the facilities provided by the district to encourage the differently-abled people to come and cast their votes," Additional CEO, Bengal, Sanjoy Basu said.
It may be mentioned that North Kolkata constituency has 750 polling stations either on the first floor or second floor and it is a challenge on the part of the CEO office in Bengal to facilitate the disabled voters in this regard. According to EC sources, there are a total of 1,565 polling stations in the state that are placed on the first or second floor of which 750 alone are in North Kolkata constituency only.
"In North Kolkata, we have 1,862 polling stations and nearly 40 percent of the booths are upstairs. This is a problem for the physically challenged as well as for the general voters," a senior official in DEO North office said. Institutions like Gurudas College or Rabindra Bharati University have a number of booths on the first and second floor.
An NGO has been roped by the EC which will trace the disabled voters and address their problems specifically. "They will report to us on regular intervals and we will make arrangements accordingly," the official added. According to a senior EC official, there will be stretchers, volunteers to carry the person to the booths, ramps for wheelchairs, braille ballot papers and refreshment to facilitate the disabled voters to take active part in voting.