It was 9.30 in the morning, Kuldeep Singh and his wife Smt. Palwinderjit Kaur aged 67 and 66 respectivelyare feeling low.A sense of thrill and anxiety prevailed in their heart and mind. Thrilled, as this is the biggest day for democracy of their country. They were feeling sad and depressed as there was no one around because all neighbors had gone to vote sinceit was a "poll day". Their only son had abandoned home due to some contingency. Questioning god Kuldeep prayed to free him from his anxiety of dependence as he was Divyang. Having one of his legs crippled, he was barely able to manage his living without assistance. But his will and wit were strong to cast his vote.
Away from the district, administration constituted a team under the able leadership of Ms. SonaliGiri, IAS (Additional Deputy Commissioner-cum-Additional District Election Officer) and was assigned a task to assist Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) to cast their votes. Meetings were conducted with all the NGOs, clubs, persons involved in social services and representatives of Persons with Disabilities to find out the best way of assisting these people. Other than this Booth Level Officers(BLOs) and Booth Awareness Groups (BAGs) were assigned a task to identify each and every person having disability and record the kind of disability and the kind of assistance required by him/her. Having done this preliminary work a man to man marking of such persons with social workers, students, NGOs, clubs, volunteers of NYK etc. were done to assist every person to polling booth. They were given first preference over any other voter with all the facilities like, ramps, wheel chairs, medical aid, refreshment, assistants etc. All efforts that were feasible were lined up to create awareness among voters.
Various events like stage shows, NukkadNataks, Rallies, Seminars, Candle March, Giddha (Punjabi Folk Dance), Jaago (A kind of candle march by ladies singing songs) etc. were carried out on the roads of Amritsar in the presence of PwDs at all the prominent places. Still there was a void in these events as persons like Kuldeep were still left behind, who were not being related so far.
Sonali was aware of this hard-hearted fact too. It was early in the morning, she woke up as the idea that 'still many PwDs might have left behind'made her uncomfortable with a fine sleep. Immediately she called her subordinate and asked him a question straight with,"Do we have phone numbers of all the persons identified as PwDs by BLOs and BAGs?”The answer was "Yes Madam". Her eyes twinkled and an innovative plan was born .She threw few more questions and all answers from her colleague were positive. Directions were issued and the time clock triggered.
Agitated Kuldeep is thinking of calling his friend Lovely Singh to assist him in casting his vote. He grabbed his cell phone and notice a message blinking over his screen already. It displayed "If you need any assistance in casting your vote please contact our toll free helpline number 18001802145."
Hummm! He mumbled, Damn! Is it possible!!! In a flinch he called that number,"Hello, Control room", said a voice, "Can I get some assistance to cast my vote as I am barely able to walk myself?""With pleasure Sir", replied that voice. He noted his particulars and asked him to get ready as their pick and dropcar will be on its way to pick him.
A team with car is now standing at his doorsteps. Filled with surprise and enthusiasm Kuldeep said, “Let’s go!!" and the team muttered "India Votes".
By: Saurabh Khosla, JA, District Election Office, Amritsar