Disability rights association helps field candidates for upcoming rural local body elections

A total of 40 candidates from the December 3 movement will be contesting for the posts of panchayat ward councillors and district councillors from six districts

For Thamizharasi A. from Ulagalampoondi in Vikravandi, the upcoming rural local body elections is a significant one, and one she hopes will bring about change — and not just for herself. She is among the 40 persons with disabilities who are members of the December 3 movement who will be contesting for various posts in the elections to be held next month.

“I am contesting for the first time and a victory would mean that not only can I work for the betterment of my village, I will also bring disabled persons in my village together and we can represent our cause in platforms such as Grama Sabha meetings,” says the 34-year-old candidate.

The 40 candidates will be contesting as independents in Villupuram, Kallakurichi, Tenkasi, Tirunelveli, Ranipet and Tirupattur for the posts of panchayat ward councillors, union and district councillors.

Among the candidates who are contesting is also A. Kavitha from Villupuram, whose nomination for the local body polls in 2011 was rejected on the grounds that the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, 1944 had a clause that did not allow persons with a hearing or speech impairment to contest in the polls. Disability rights organisations and activists had then come together and protested this and took the legal route following which the act was amended in 2012.

“When I go out to canvass for votes, I appeal to the voters to give someone like me, who can do good for the village, a chance and not just see me as someone with a disability,” said Vijaya Bai, a 48-year-old candidate from Tirupattur. She said that when a disabled person is elected as a representative, there would definitely be better understanding of their concerns and that their voices would be heard.

“For years now, we have stressed how important it is to ensure there is empowerment at the grassroots level, and hence our keen focus on the local body polls. When a person with a disability contests and wins, we will have a significant presence in the administration, and the empowerment for the disabled in those areas too, will be immense,” said T.M.N. Deepak, founder, December 3 Movement.

He said that it was the first time that a disability rights association had fielded candidates with disabilities in an organised way like this, in an election in Tamil Nadu.

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