The disabled may miss their vote as data is incomplete

BENGALURU: The Election Commission of India’s bid to ensure wider participation of the disabled in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections has run into rough weather with incomplete data about Bengaluru. This despite Karnataka being one of the pioneers in facilitating disabled voters — as part of the EC’s inclusiveness agenda — during last year’s elections.

Based on the EC’s directive, the state election authority ensured participation of a large number of PwDs (people with disability) last year. Committees were formed at various levels to create a database of PwD voters and to ensure that they are on the rolls.

Less than a year later, even as the EC has a special focus on PwDs — the panel even says it will pick them up and drop on the polling day — election authorities in Bengaluru are struggling at the data-gathering stage.

The officials are facing two issues: One, there is no data on the number of PwD voters who are out of the electoral system. Two, the election machinery does not have a registry of the number of PwDs who voted in the last election.

The state election authority’s data puts the total number of registered PwD voters at 10 lakh. Of this, about 1.8 lakh are in Bengaluru urban district. As many as 50,000 of this are in Bengaluru City. However, when one asks about the number of eligible voters who are yet to get their names enrolled, officials have no data.

“The last survey of PwDs was done in 2011. We cannot depend on that data alone as the reality is different now. The only option we are left with is to create a database using the list of PwDs available with the Department of Women and Child Welfare,” an officer at the district election office said.

The issue with creating a database using the Women and Child Welfare Department’s data is that the list includes names of PwDs who are below 18. Also, the department maintains a database of only those people who avail its monthly pension.

“In a city like Bengaluru where the number of PwDs is larger compared to other places, the data gathering process should have started much earlier,” said Babu S, assistant director, policy advocacy, at the Association of People with Disability.

Election authorities should have maintained data of PwDs who voted in the 2018 elections. “It would have helped to get an idea of PwDs’ level of participation in the election. And the data would have helped election authorities to set area-specific targets,” Babu pointed out.

Yet, officials are hopeful of pushing the voting percentage of PwDs by at least 10% in the upcoming polls. “We have directed our booth-level officers to identify PwDs to get their names registered. We got quite a good response during Minchina Nondani (quick registration) held on Feb 23 and 24,” BBMP Special Commissioner SG Raveendra said.



By Akshatha M