Wheelchairs in 4,000 polling premises in Bengal’s East Midnapore (Lead, correcting para five)

Kolkata, May 3 (IANS) The Election Commission has arranged wheelchairs in each of the 4,000 ‘polling premises’, or the combined area of the polling station and the immediate vicinity, in West Bengal’s East Midnapore district where voting will be held on Thursday, an official said.

“This is a one of a kind initiative in any Bengal district for the elections. We have arranged at least one wheelchair in about 4,000 polling premises across the district,” Tapan Tarafder, officer-in-charge of SVEEP (Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation) told IANS.

Special wheelchair operators called ‘booth sahayaks’ have also been trained to bring the disabled voters to the polling station, he said.

With an electorate of 36,59,584 of East Midnapore has 16 of the 25 assembly constituencies going to polls in the sixth and final phase of the Bengal assembly elections. The other nine are in Cooch Behar district.

“As per our survey total electors having disabilities is about 15,500. Since our district was awarded for taking special measures for persons with disability (PWD), we decided to dedicate a major part of our activities to them,” said Tarafder.

It helped that the district’s turn at voting was in the last phase and so a sufficient amount of time was available, he said.

“After the notification of the polls, as many as 100 hoardings, 50,000 posters have been set up and awareness campaigns through 40 folk artists have been done. One month was dedicated to initiatives for PWD voters and training camps were organised by experts in Braille,” Tarafder said.

The district administration will also maintain records of PWD voters’ turnout in each polling booth.

The Election Commission started SVEEP in 2010 to increase voter participation in elections.

–IANS

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