Physical disability did not deter the spirit of 55-year-old Mohammad Umar Ansari who patiently waited outside 184, Byculla polling center in scorching heat for an hour to vote. The Agripada resident was finally transferred to a makeshift carriage, lifted and taken by the polling officers inside the polling booth to cast his vote. Ansari— who is mute, has non-functional hands and cannot walk— has never missed a single opportunity to vote.
On Wednesday, the man visited the polling center at 11.30 am with his nephew and wife to cast his vote. When the Newsline correspondent approached him as he sat on his wheelchair parked at road-side, he smiled, pointed towards the polling station with excitement and shook his head when asked whether he had cast his vote yet. Meanwhile, his nephew and polling officers were making arrangements to carry him on the stairs at the polling station’s entrance.
“We don’t have wheelchairs in the polling station as this is a school. So we tied two bamboo sticks to a plastic chair and carried him in it. This will be helpful for any other handicap person who comes to vote,” a duty officer said.
By 12.30 pm Ansari was able to finally cast his vote. His nephew Mohammad Sameer said, “Since he could not sign on his own, we used his thumb on the form. I went to the polling booth with him and helped him press the button.” Ansari’s wife Saeeda Ansari said, “He forces us and all our neighbours to get out of the house and vote. He is always excited about elections.” According to Vandana Suryavanshi, returning officer of 184 Byculla assembly constituency, with a higher percentage of senior citizens in the pocket, polling officers have been trained to assist them during the polling day. “We have made the provision for such chairs in 17 locations in Byculla,” Suryavanshi said.
Rajkumar Sharma, who works with Agni NGO, said, “Handicapped and old people do have problem in going to the polling station alone. Even NGO volunteers are not allowed to go inside with them.” He added that several polling stations have infrastructural problems with no ramp for handicap people.