Wheelchairs in 4,000 polling premises in Bengal’s East Midnapore

Kolkata, May 3 (IANS) The Election Commission has arranged wheelchairs in each of the 4000 ‘polling premises’ in West Bengal’s East Midnapore district where voting will be held on Thursday, an official said.

‘Polling premises’ refers to a polling station plus the immediately surrounding area.

“This is a one of a kind initiative in any Bengal district for the elections. We have arranged at least one wheelchair in about 4000 polling premises across the district,” Tapan Tarafder, officer-in-charge of SVEEP (Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation) told IANS.

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

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

East Midnapore has 25 assembly constituencies and an electorate of 36,59,584.

“As per our survey total electors having disabilities is about 15500. 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 Tarafdar.

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,” Tarafdar said.

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

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