Gangtok, 04 Apr (IPR): As per the instructions of the Election Commission of India this time one of the important themes to be observed during Election is Accessible Elections. Sikkim is going for Polls on 11th April, 2019 and to ensure participation of differently-abled Voters in this biggest democratic exercise, the office of the Chief Electoral Officer, Sikkim in co- ordination with Social Justice, Empowerment and Welfare Department, Government of State has taken various steps.

The CEO Office has appointed State Nodal Officer and District Nodal Officers for ensuring that this time the elections are Accessible to all PWD Voters. The Election Commission of India has also appointed two Accessibility Observers to specifically oversee the preparation in the districts with regard to Accessible Elections.

Shri Vishal Chauhan, IAS, Commissioner–cum–Secretary, Health Care, Human Services and Family Welfare Department has been appointed as the Accessibility Observers for East and North District. He may be contacted at 94340-08110 for any complaints/ query with regard to facilities provided to PWD voters for East and North District.

Similarly, Smt. Ambika Pradhan, IAS, Secretary, Cultural Affairs and Heritage Department have been appointed as the Accessibility Observer for West and South Districts. She may be contacted at 9733157778 for any complaints/ query with regard to facilities provided to PWD voters for West and South Districts.

In the first round of exercise the marking of the differently abled voters in the Electoral Roll was done with the help of the Booth Level Officers (BLOs). These voters have been marked as per their Polling Station and on the day of the Poll following facilities will be provided to them:

  1. Basic facilities like drinking water, toilets, shed.
  2. Transportation for PWD Voters is being made from the office of the District Election Officers on Poll Day. These Voters will be ferried from their residence by a designated vehicle and brought to the polling station. After casting their Vote they will again be dropped to their residence by the same vehicle.
  3. In a State like Sikkim, the terrain poses as the major obstacle in making polling stations physically accessible. Hence, to overcome this challenge, this time Volunteers have been appointed to assist the PWD Voters to reach the Polling Stations, especially for locomotors disabled Voters. These Volunteers are enrolled from the Electoral Literacy Clubs that are established in Schools and also from the NSS, NCC, Scouts and Guides.
  4. The Polling Stations which are physically accessible are being provided with Wheel chairs for the convenience of such Voters.
  5. For the benefit of the Visually Challenged Voters dummy ballot in Braille and voter slip in Braille is being introduced.
  6. Pictograms are in circulation and also available in the Voters Facilitation Centres for the convenience of Speech and Hearing Impaired Voters.
  7. PWD Voters and Senior Citizens will be given preference in Voting without having to stand in queue.
  8. PWD Voters can also call the Toll Free number 1950 regarding any query and if they have not marked themselves, they may also mark themselves through the PWD App for any specific assistance.

The Indian Constitution under Article 326 has granted the right to vote to all its citizens of sound mind above the age of 18, irrespective of caste, religion, social or economic status. Further, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 lays down certain measures to be taken by the Government and Public Authorities for empowerment of persons with disabilities. The Act envisages creating a “barrier free” environment so that the persons with disabilities can participate in society fully and effectively. Barrier does not only mean physical barrier but it also includes communicational, cultural, economic, environmental, institutional, political, social, attitudinal or structural barriers. Section 11 of the Act emphasizes accessibility to voting under heading “Rights and Entitlements”.

This Election let us ensure that no voter is left behind!

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