October 20th, 2011
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Polling booths not senior citizen friendly

old and polling booth

Chennai:Many senior citizens and persons with disabilities found it difficult to cast their votes in the second phase of local body election held to municipalities and panchayats in southern and western fringes of Chennai on Wednesday. N Sankaran, 50-year-old resident of New Colony, Chromepet, and former State Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said that in the Assembly election held recently, his vehicle was allowed to go up to the polling booth.

“But this time the vehicles were restricted at least 100 metres away from the polling booth and I had to walk some distance to cast my vote for candidates in Pallavaram Municipality,”  Sankaran said. Stating that the Election Commission of India was taking measures to increase the voter turnout, he wondered how it would be possible if booths continued to be unfriendly to senior citizens. He suggested that wheel chairs could be provided for such voters. As vehicles were strictly prohibited from being parked near most of the booths, senior citizens had to walk up to half a km to reach the polling stations in places such as Tambaram, Chromepet, Avadi and Poonamallee.

At Satyamurthy Nagar, Avadi, voters had to park their vehicles about 300 metres away as the polling booth was on the arterial Chennai Tiruvallur Road. Elderly voters and those with physical disabilities had to take the help of relatives or climb a few stairs with crutches. Kaliaperumal of Vaishnavi Nagar, Avadi, said: “We had to argue with police personnel and polling officers to allow vehicles inside the premises as the premises was slushy after last night’s rain.”

Sathapan, a 80-year-old resident of Ambedkar Street, Avadi, said: “It was difficult to walk. But, I did not want to waste my vote and came with my grandson.”

At a High School in Tambaram, relatives of Velvet, an 87-year-old, carried her from the main gate till the booth. In some places, the elderly and people with disabilities were allowed to vote without waiting in the queue. Many voters with disabilities wanted the authorities to provide proper ramps in the booths. P.Padmarajan of  Karayanchavadi, said: “I had to be lifted along with my wheel chair as there was no ramp in the booth. I wanted to use the chance to elect the candidates to improve basic amenities in my locality.”

Neighbours of Venkatesh and Mari, a couple with visual impairment, helped them to vote at a booth in Poonamallee. “We had to end up revealing the party symbol that we want to vote for. The government must consider providing Braille facility in the voting machines,” said Manickavasagan, a resident of Cantonment Market.

Many others like 60-year-old Sebastian, who had leprosy, said people like him had no choice but to seek the help of polling officials to cast their vote.


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