Senior citizens brave pandemic to exercise their franchise

Neither their age nor the spike in COVID-19 cases deterred senior citizens from casting their vote on the day of polling on Tuesday.

Hand-in-hand, C. Shanmugam, aged around 80 years, and his wife came all the way from home to exercise their democratic duty at Tiruvarangulam in Pudukottai district.

The aged couple wore masks and walked slowly towards the booth at Panchayat Union Elementary School along Pudukottai-Alangudi Main Road where hand sanitisers and gloves were kept ready for distribution to voters.

Despite suffering from mild visual impairment, Mr. Shanmugam’s wife Chellammal was equally keen to vote this time as well. Armed with documents required for voting, the couple did not find it difficult to vote as they turned up early at the booth. Notwithstanding their age, they said in one voice that they wanted to exercise their democratic right. The volunteers and other staff deployed at the booth assisted them.

The same was the case with 85-year-old N. Gopalakrishnan, a resident of Pudukottai Town. Holding a walker and assisted by his close relative, Mr. Gopalakrishnan promptly arrived a couple of hours after polling began at the booth set up in Government Ranees School in Pudukottai.

“Considering my age, officials allotted me a separate area to wait for a short duration of time prior to casting my vote,” said Mr. Gopalakrishnan.

There was no delay in voting and arrangements made by the official authorities at the booth were good, he said after exercising his franchise.

Overcoming her difficulty to walk freely, 70-year-old Remisha Beevi, accompanied by her son Sadakathullah, promptly cast her vote at a polling booth set up at Government Higher Secondary School in Illupuri.

Ms. Remisha Beevi said she had been exercising her franchise for several years and did not want to discontinue despite her mobility problem.

Athorities had made provision of a wheelchair among other facilities at the polling booth to help voters especially those with physical disability. Ms. Remisha’s son, who brought her in a vehicle up to the entrance, shifted her to the wheelchair and took her to the designated booth inside the sprawling premises braving the intense heat in the afternoon.

Ms. Remisha did not have to wait for long as she was given priority to cast her vote by those waiting in the queue and by officials. Provision of ramp was made at several booths all over the district to help those with physical disability and senior citizens. Many aged women wearing masks turned up promptly to vote in favour of the candidate of their choice in the district.

In Tiruchi district, some senior citizens who turned up to vote felt that the new government must prioritise the welfare of senior citizens.

S. Muthu, 65, a resident of Woraiyur who lives alone with his wife, said the government must provide for the care of the elderly. “During the pandemic, we suffered a lot. We were unable to purchase any groceries and had to depend upon others for our basic needs.”

Officials of the district administration could conduct door-to-door enquiry and arrange supplies such as groceries and medicines, he added.

M.S. Ashraf, senior physician and former national vice-president, Indian Medical Association, felt that the government should increase its focus on healthcare. “A clear plan of action on combating communicable and non-communicable diseases could be charted out. The government must also promote vaccination for all.”

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