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By Saurav Borah
TURA/SHILLONG: Election officials have identified as many as 4,519 Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) who will vote in the two parliamentary constituencies of Shillong and Tura.
Chief Electoral Officer Frederick Kharkongor said the Election Commission wants to make the polls inclusive and accessible.
Kharkongor said the unique feature of this year’s election is that accessible observers will be appointed to help people with various disabilities.
The categories of PwDs are locomotor (1,748), hearing/speech impaired (872), visually impaired (803), mental retardation (400) and other disabilities (696).
For the hearing impaired, all polling officials and booth level officers are trained by the Meghalaya Deaf Association to familiarise with 114 election related terms, the official said.
Meghalaya Sign Bank App developed in coordination with Commissioner of Disability, has 114 election terms available on video mode for quick reference.
While 1,188 physically challenged (locomotor) voters are there under Shillong Lok Sabha seat, the number is 560 in Tura.
Ram Singh, West Garo Hills deputy commissioner and returning officer for the elections, said special facilities have been arranged for the physically challenged who have been identified by polling officers at special camps.
“We have arranged special camps where our polling officers have identified them, their polling stations and houses. In fact, a special electronic voting machine/voter verifiable paper audit trail machine was set up at a polling centre in Tura,” Singh told this correspondent.
Braille ballot papers have also been kept ready to facilitate the visually challenged voters.
“We have directed all the anganwadi workers to volunteer and facilitate the physically challenged voters after identification. Appliances such as wheelchairs are being arranged for them to have easy access to the polling booths,” he added.
Election officials here have kept three flying squads in each Assembly constituency under Tura Lok Sabha constituency to ensure that the model code of conduct is not violated and action is taken against violators.
“Besides, static surveillance teams are on the job round the clock. This time, any Android phone user can lodge a complaint against any violator of the model code through the cVigil app where photos/videos can be uploaded for flying squads to take prompt action,” Singh said.
“We are planning a series of road shows in urban areas to woo young voters to the polling booths. Through the queue management system voters can be kept informed about the people in the queue. Besides, voters can also verify their names in the electoral roll by dialing 1950,” the West Garo Hills deputy commissioner said.
Special kiosks have been opened in schools and colleges to woo first-time voters (who have attained 18 or 19 years of age) to the polling booths.
“This time, we have enrolled 5,400 first-time voters under Tura Lok Sabha constituency. In rural areas, sector officers have been sent to all polling stations for mock polls to create awareness about VVPAT machines, etc among young voters,” Singh said.
He added that political parties and candidates are also being helped on any information required, right from enrolment, nomination to withdrawal. (With Our Reporter in Shillong)