When a brand new wheelchair was not used in a polling booth in Virudhunagar

Fragile senior citizen R. Swamidass had made it to the polling booth at Amala High School in Kariyapatti with great difficulty

Braving the hot sun, R. Swamidass, a fragile senior citizen, made it to the polling booth at Amala High School in Kariyapatti under the Virudhunagar Lok Sabha constituency with great difficulty.

Though Mr. Swamidass, a retired government employee, moved very slowly with the help of a walker, he had a determined gait. He was helped by some persons to climb up a ramp to move in.

As he walked on the verandah, he noticed a neatly packed unused wheelchair.

Then walked in R. Bhageerathan (76), also a retired government officer. He questioned a couple of persons who were on poll duty about the brand new wheelchair and one of them said it should be be unpacked only by the presiding officer.

However, Mr. Bhageerathan stood ground. “What for was that bought by the government?” was his question.

And when the men on election duty unpacked it finally, Mr. Swamidass had entered the booth to cast his vote.

As he left profusely sweating, he was helped by two young women volunteers to climb down the ramp.

Two hours had passed since the polling began at 7 a.m.and the wheelchair, meant for use by the aged and differently-abled, had not been used.

When this correspondent asked about his eagerness to cast his vote despite so much pain and difficulties, Mr. Swamidass, who had retired some 25 years back, said, “Can I give up my right?” He has a poor vision and hence is confined to his room. Radio is his only friend.

When asked what does his vote mean, he said it was for the good of the country.

“These days, votes are being sought on commission. I don’t need anyone’s help. I came all the way on my own. This [EPIC card] is all enough [to cast my vote],” he said.

To a query as to why did he not seek the help of a wheelchair, he said, “Why should I bother others?”

The only help he sought was asking a polling official to identify the symbol of his choice to cast his vote and she readily obliged, he said in a feeble voice.

Without expecting anyone to ferry him back, he waited under the shade of a tree outside the polling station for his grandson to take him back home.

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