IAS officer Nidhi Srivastava is out to include every disabled voter in Delhi elections
As District Magistrate Central District Delhi IAS officer Nidhi Srivastava brings an empathetic approach to the accessible election exercise. Srivastava was recently recognised for her efforts with the Best Electoral Practices Award on National Voters’ Day.
“I feel we can never claim to be a nation in the fullest sense if we have a section of society excluded from the mainstream”. Words that show the level of commitment IAS officer Nidhi Srivastava brings to her role as District Magistrate Central District Delhi.
Recognised for her inclusion efforts
Srivastava was recognised for her efforts with the Best Electoral Practices Award on National Voters’ Day this year.
With the Delhi Assembly elections less than 10 days away, Election Commission of India (ECI) officials are making every effort to ensure that facilities are made accessible to voter of every disability type. From sign language videos for deaf voters to postal ballot voting for the elderly and people with severe disabilities, the ECI wants to help voters with disabilities exercise voting rights with ease.
Over 37% new voters with disabilities have been added to the electoral list for the upcoming election in Delhi.
People with disabilities are equal citizens like others and must be included. For that to happen, we should be willing to go every extra mile. Mainstreaming disabled people does not mean they have simply to go along with the others. We have to be proactive and take steps needed to include them. – Nidhi Srivastava, District Magistrate Central District Delhi
Voting booth manned by disabled people at Civil Lines
In the general elections last year, history was made when a voting booth manned entirely by disabled people was set up in Ambedkar Nagar in South Delhi. Srivastava was district magistrate of South Delhi at the time. The exercise was a grand success and showcased the disabled community in a positive way. This time she is ensuring that a similar booth be set up in Civil Lines.
“The whole process of having one polling station manned by people with disabilities is a major challenge”, says Srivastava. Retrofitting the centre to make it accessible was just one of them. The other was to get disabled volunteers to man the booth. Not many people were willing. She credits disability rights advocate Dr Satendra Singh for mobilising and motivating the community. “I give a lot of credit to Dr Singh for putting the team for this election together”.
The disabled people manning the voting booth this time are new to the exercise and are going through the required training for the big day. While she is happy about the awareness that is growing, Srivastava is clear there is a long way to go.
Accessible election exercise done in partnership with disabled community
Dr Singh, a member of the State Steering Committee on Accessible Election (SSCAE), credits Srivastava for involving members of the disabled community at every step.
“She has always involved me in approving slogans/ posters involving voters with disabilities”, says Dr Singh, who was among those honoured along with Srivastava on National Voters’ Day “It was her idea to have a PwD-manned booth and because of her continuous support I volunteered to build a team. We need more such empathetic leaders who are willing to learn from societal barriers and are committed to bring change”.
Srivastava is clear that her commitment towards building inclusion does not end with elections alone. “There is a lot of work to be done. Look at our footpaths for instance, they are not accessible. It’s not just infrastructure, but also behaviour related. We cannot say we represent the nation unless all sections of society are included”.