Dimapur, December 20 (NE): The Election Commission of India (ECI) on December Nineteen organized a National Workshop on Accessible Elections at New Delhi.
The Workshop was organized with the purpose of reviewing steps taken as yet by ECI for making Elections friendly for Persons with Disabilities and Senior Citizens and to deliberate on steps still required to make the process more inclusive and accessible.
According to an information from Nagaland State Election Commission, said, Chief Election Commissioner, Shri Sunil Arora in his keynote address that, “While disability is a problem that needs to be addressed more by the individuals and the family.
Accessibility is a problem that needs more of institutional remedies”. Shri Arora said, “It is our aim to achieve optimum level of awareness and optimum level of interventions on the ground. From Booth Level Officers to ECI, each and every person must work in tandem. It was in January, 2018 that “Accessible Elections” was decided as the guiding theme for General Elections 2019. “It is essential that we scale up efforts and interventions in a manner that issues of accessibility are removed altogether and our elections are inclusive in the truest sense.” He noted that it is heartening that over 90% PwDs have been able to cast their votes in the recently held polling in Jharkhand. “The entire chain of electoral process, E2E i.e. Enrolment to Elections, needs to be PwDs friendly & accessible and the entire system from BLOs to ECI HQs needs to be worked to overcome these issues” he emphasized. Reaffirming ECI’s commitment, Election Commissioner Shri Ashok Lavasa stated that while all efforts made by Chief Electoral Officers & DEOs have made ECI come a long way, yet more needs to be done. “We must learn from around the world, find out what lies ahead, and identify concrete steps that will empower us to make adequate changes”, he said.
Suggesting a three pronged strategy, Shri Lavasa said Benchmarking of data, assessing it against parameters of Accessibility Index, making ECI and CEO websites compliant with prescribed guidelines and continuous evaluation would help us unlock the potential that lies ahead. The Election Commissioner Shri Sushil Chandra lauded the efforts of Civil Society organizations and Election Officials on the field. He also emphasized on the importance of sensitization towards the electoral rights of Persons with Disabilities. “We need the support of all Civil Society Organisations and concerned NGOs to make PwD voters an integral part of democracy” he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Secretary General, Shri Umesh Sinha emphasized the need for desired structural changes to address critical gaps and lauded the efforts of Election Machinery, Civil Society Organisations and other stakeholders at the grassroots level. Shri Sinha highlighted the added facility of choice of Postal ballot from home for Octogenarians and PwDs, piloted in recent Jharkhand elections. Deputy Election Commissioner, Shri Chandra Bhushan Kumar reiterated the importance of the recommendations received from stakeholders across the country since these would pave the way in making future elections more inclusive. He thanked the Organizations who came to participate in the workshop and particularly the Accessibility Consultant ECI Ms. Smitha Sadasivan for making the deliberations fruitful. Exhaustive mapping of PwD voters, providing transport facility, special volunteers, Assured Minimum Facilities like ramp, wheelchair, sign language, EVM with Braille at polling station and most recently, the provision of postal ballots to PwD voters are some of the initiatives taken by Election Commission of India to ensure accessibility and uphold the tenet of ‘No Voter to be Left Behind’. Besides Chief Electoral Officers and District Election Officers from various States/UTs, the workshop saw the participation of representatives of Civil Society Organizations, Government Organizations and NGOs representing different disability sectors including AADI, Sarthak Educational Trust, National Association of the Deaf, NCPEDP National Disability Network, Saksham, EcoTatv, NIEPVD, PDUNIPPD, BPA Ahmedabad and ISLRTC.
With stakeholders from across India in attendance, various other programs marked the day on the workshop being attended, as per information available here from Nagaland’s office.