Awareness about accessible election facilities still an issue in Arunachal Pradesh
Elections in Arunachal Pradesh will be held on 11 April for 60 seats. There are around 3,000 people with disabilities who are likely to cast their vote but these do not reflect the actual numbers as many disabled people who are eligible to vote have not registered themselves.
Komini Meto, of the Abralow Memorial Multipurpose Society, an organization that works for disabled people, says that facilities to ensure accessible voting for all are way off the mark.
Facilities are needed for voters who are blind like an assistant to accompany them, who has been certified by the local poll officer. The Election Commission of India was planning to introduce braille facilities for blind voters. We still don't know if that is being followed. - Komini Meto, Secretary, Abralow Memorial Multipurpose Society
The election office in the state has announced that special vehicles for people with disabilities will be provided so that can get to the voting booths. This is important given that a large part of the state has a hilly terrain making access an even bigger issue.
Techi Anna of the NGO, Ajen Anna Society says voters in the state have already struggled for proper facilities. "In most elections, family members help the disabled voters to reach the polling booths. At times, political parties also help their supporters by arranging for their transport. If there are efforts being made this time, there needs to be greater awareness created.
Added to the hilly terrain, is the annual monsoon rains that will hit Arunachal Pradesh in April. Promises have been made to provide helicopters for areas worst affected so election-related materials and personnel can reach remote areas. With less than a month to go, there is pressure on the ECI to ensure the various promises made under the Accessible Elections campaign are met with. Arunachal Pradesh will be the acid test.