The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has given in to the insistence of the State Election Commission (SEC) that disabled citizens should be able to conveniently access polling booths during next months civic elections.
From 1,666 non-ground floor booths in the 2007 elections,the BMC has brought down this number to a mere 39 booths. Spread over 18 centres,these 39 booths will also be confirmed after BMC gets a go-ahead from SEC officials.
An official from the BMCs election department said keeping in mind the need to have centres that are convenient for the physically disabled voters,the civic body went on an overdrive over the past month and found alternatives to the current centres that are either on the first or second floor. The total number of booths has increased from 6,951 in 2007 to 8,416 for the election scheduled on February 16. The 8,416 booths are across 2,056 locations.
Last November,state election commissioner Neela Satyanarayan directed the BMC to have all polling booths only on the ground floor. The BMC said it was worried that such a demand will lead to a sharp rise in election expenses in addition to increasing the logistical and resource challenges.
BMC Commissioner Subodh Kumar informed us that they will not be able to set up booths on the ground floor at 18 places having 39 booths as there is no alternative option. It is against our order and I will be visiting the places and checking if alternative space can be made available or tents can be set up on open premises, said Satyanarayan.
She added that large housing societies,which have more than 1,000 residents,can set up booths but the permissions will have to be granted at the commissioner level.
Three lakh voters,mostly youths,have registered in Mumbai over the past three months,raising the total voter number to 1.02 crore. The SEC conducted a month-long drive in Mumbai in October to increase voter registration.
SEC officials said the drive got a good response from civil society groups and college youths,who came forward to enlist themselves. Not just NGOs and civil societies,colleges were roped in and we saw good response from them. Maximum youths have registered during the drive, said Satyanarayan.