Broken doors and dining tables doubled up as ramps for disabled

Civic bodies in Mumbai and Thane followed Supreme Court order and set up facilities for the physically challenged, but did a very shoddy job

NILESH NIKADE, SUDHIR SURYAWANSHI AND YOGESH SADHWANI
Mumbai and Thane adhered to the Supreme Court order that made ramps and other arrangements for differently-abled voters at polling booths mandatory. But it was a half-hearted job.  The BMC and Thane Municipal Corporation constructed ramps at many booths, but most were in a bad shape. Nilesh Singit of ADAPT, an NGO that conducted an independent audit of ramps constructed by the BMC, on High Court orders, said, “BMC’s work was not adequate. There were gaps between the ramps and steps, plywood connecting the ramps and steps created obstacles for wheelchairs, etc.” Sanvardeep Oberoi, an HR College student, who was part of the ADAPT team, said the polling booths were checked for five facilities: ramps, railings, Braille, lifts if the booth was not on the ground floor and how helpful polling staff were. “We visited 10 polling booths with 38 volunteers. Something or other was missing at each place. But, we were satisfied that the authorities had at least started doing something,” he said.

The situation was no better in Thane.  Mumbra resident Chandbibi, 50 – bedridden after a slipped disc – reached her polling booth at the New English School in Amrit Nagar on a stretcher. However, a broken door acted as a makeshift ramp. She said, “The government is wasting so much money on advertisements requesting people to vote. They should instead spend some money creating facilities for physically challenged people like us.”

Yusuf Khan – an independent candidate from Kalyan-Dombivli who has a physical impairment – contested to raise a voice for the disabled in Parliament. He said, “Physically challenged voters had no facilities on the ground floor. At Mumbra, the polling authority used a dining table as a ramp and the staff wasn’t supportive.”  The physically impaired faced a tough time in Ambernath as well. Shankar Salve, who runs the Apang Hakk Vikas Manch inspected local polling booths, was shocked to find that in many private buildings authorities had set up ramps that even a fit person wouldn’t be able to climb. “They were either too narrow, or too steep. Some were mere thin sheets of plywood placed along the stairs.” Dilip Halde, returning officer incharge of Kalyan Lok Sabha seat, he said, “The concerned officials will be punished for such gross dereliction of the order.”

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