NIP NGO Organizes Panel Discussion on West Bengal Assembly Elections Parties Manifesto & Disability, Announces Helpline

By Ankit Agarwal and Prerna Kothari

Panel Discussion on West Bengal Assembly Election - Political Parties Manifesto & Disability and Announcement of HELP LINE organized by NIP NGO held at Rotary Sadan, Kolkata

Kolkata, March 21 - NIP NGO (National Institute of Professionals) - An Educational Centre for the Blind & Disabled Students came up with this unique innovative initiative to spread awareness to people through a panel discussion on “West Bengal Assembly Election - Political Parties Manifesto & Disability” for the exploration of new avenue for the disabled in ensuing West Bengal Assembly Election at Rotary Sadan, Kolkata.

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Political leaders from different political parties and representatives from different organization related to differently able persons represented their valuable opinion on this discussion. The discussion was attended by eminent personalities like: Ritesh Tewari, BJP; Somnath Roy, TMC; Ambikesh Mahapatra and many others.

In this panel discussion, NIP also announces the HELP LINE for the blind and other differently able persons for the upcoming election. So that differently able persons facing any problem related to election can use their HELP LINE.

Representatives from election commission announced about the special arrangements for the blind and other differently able persons in the ensuing election. The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disability (CCPD) asked the Election Commission to ensure the accessibility of the polling booths. The Election Commission has also been supplying visually challenged voters with list of candidates with serial numbers in Braille since 2009. The EVMs are also marked with Braille numbers for the convenience of visually challenged voters. What about the disabled voters? Are they going to exercise their franchise?

Election to the disabled voters is never of much importance. Accessibility is a major problem, no doubt. But the greater problem is secrecy. In most cases they are forced to take one of the polling officials inside the booth instead of their own escorts.

It is unfortunate that this community forms about more than 2% of the entire population according to the Census 2011; yet they are hardly remembered by the political parties. They are spread all over the country. More or less, equal distribution of the disabled voters among the constituencies and their negligible participation in the election process have rendered them as insignificant. Their votes do not affect the outcome of the poll in anyway. The SC and ST voters and voters of other communities are concentrated in a particular area. The lot of the candidates from that area depend heavily on their votes. They have to pay attention to their needs. It sometimes leads to narrow, community-based promises, but these communities benefit from it.

This time the Assembly Election seems significant to the disabled voters as the new Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPD) bill is pending in the Rajya-Sabha and not yet tabled in the Lok-Sabha. It has become more significant when the disabled community demanded for more deliberation on the bill and government wanted to get it passed before the election was declared. The police resorted to lathi charge on the peaceful demonstration by hundreds of visually challenged persons in New Delhi on February 27.

Contributing to the discussion, Mr. Debajyoti Roy, Secretary, NIP, said, “The disabled persons want their voices to be heard when the bill is on the table. The parties must take into account the hopes and aspirations of the disabled voters. The objective of this programme is to review the situation of the disabled persons in the midst of the election process.”

NIP at a glance: National Institute of Professionals - NIP NGO is primarily an educational centre providing basic education on computer and educational programme to the blinds, other disabled persons and under privileged students, directed by Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). NIP is awarded with the “STATE AWARD” on December 3, 2012.