• +91-9916368800
  • nfbkarnataka@gmail.com

Tamil Nadu: Breaking barriers, people with disabilities enter civic poll fray (Advocacy & Lobbying)

CHENNAI: A decade after her nomination to contest the civic polls was rejected on the grounds of her disability, A Kavitha of Navamal Kapperi village in Villupuram district is all set to enter the fray this time.

The rejection of her nomination in 2011, on the grounds of disability, paved the way to amend the law to enable persons with hearing and speech impairments as well as those affected with leprosy to contest the polls.
Kavitha, 34, who has hearing and speech impairment, is now contesting for the post of ward councillor in Navamal Kapperi panchayat.
Rejection of her nomination in 2011 triggered a protest to do away with a sub-section in the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, 1994, which prohibited persons with hearing and speech impairment and those affected with leprosy from contesting polls. Activists and forums for people with disabilities organised protests and laid siege to the Tamil Nadu State Election Commission office in Chennai.

After prolonged struggles, the government introduced an amendment on November 15, 2012. It removed “deaf, mute and persons affected with leprosy” from subsection 3 of Section 33 (no person shall be qualified for election as a member or president or chairman of panchayat) and published it in the government gazette.
“There is a tough fight ahead but contesting in the polls itself is like winning for us. It gives a lot of confidence to the (differently-abled) community,” said Kavitha’s father V R Thangarasu, who is also a person with disability. Both daughter and father are contesting in ward 3 and 4 respectively in the panchayat.
Kavitha was allotted the ‘key’ symbol to contest in the polls. “We hope it will unlock the barriers and give opportunities for us to serve the community and prove a point,” Thangarasu said.
They were among 40-odd candidates with disabilities in the fray for the posts of village panchayat ward councilors, district and union ward councillors in the rural local body polls in the nine reconstituted districts. Most of them are from Villupuram, Chengalpet and Kancheepuram districts.
Disability activists and members of various differently-abled forums are campaigning for the candidates. “There is good response among the public,” said S Annamalai, state general secretary of the December 3 Movement. He, along with 25 other members of the forum, have been travelling on threewheeler motorbikes to campaign for the candidates.