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Cry for poll equality

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 29.03.04

Bhubaneswar, March 29: People with disability in Orissa are demanding that politicians should take them into account while seeking votes.

With elections to the Lok Sabha and the Assembly nearing, the people with disability are demanding that ramps be built in polling booths in Orissa to make them more accessible to wheelchair-bound voters.

Among the 40 lakh disabled people in Orissa, at least six lakh have their name enlisted in voters’ lists.

At a political convention earlier this month, hundreds of people with disability in Orissa had demanded three per cent reservation for them in the Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies of the state. At the convention attended by leaders of the Biju Janata Dal, BJP, Congress, Samajwadi Party and the CPM, the disabled people demanded that they should also get the benefit of reservations that are given to those from the scheduled castes and tribes.

“Arrangements should be made for postal ballots for those under rehabilitation,” said Shruti Mohapatra, convener of the Orissa State Disability Network, which organised the convention. For blind voters there should be a trusted escort to guide him or her to the voting machine, the convention demanded.

Though the political class, including BJP, BJD and the Congress, have rejected the demand for reservation in Lok Sabha and Assembly seats for the disabled people, all have supported the demand for a disability commissioner in the state. President of the Orissa unit of the Samajwadi Party, Baishnab Parida, said his party had already included some of the demands put forth by the Orissa State Disability Network in its election manifesto. The other demands made by the disabled people are 100 per cent medical certification in the state by the end of 2005, Record of Rights for colonies of persons who have been cured from leprosy and disability pension for people with disability below poverty level.

The organisation has asked the chief electoral officer to make electronic voting machines friendly for voters with visual disability.