18 Apr 2019: 159 inmates of Institute of Mental Health vote, create history
In a historic first, 159 inmates of Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Chennai, practised their right to vote today.
Some were first-time voters, others had voted before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections but didn't have their previous voter-IDs.
While all of them were tested fit for voting, most of these inmates have been abandoned by their families even after they were cured.
Details: There is a festive atmosphere here today, says IMH director
The director of IMH Chennai, Dr. P Poorna Chandrika, said, "The residents who have voted are very happy. There is a festive atmosphere here today. It is a historic moment for us, we have all become part of history."
She said that even though there is no law stopping the mentally-ill from voting, such people are often deprived of their right due to stigma.
Experience: Voter at IMH says 'have a fair idea about politics'
Chandrika further said, "Unlike us, they are asked questions like: should they vote, can they vote," adding that only those who are declared having 'unsound mind' by a court aren't allowed to vote.
A 46-year-old inmate who voted, said, "I've a fair idea about Indian politics. I know about the political parties in Tamil Nadu as well as those in North and Central India."
Issues: Voted according to conscience, considering country's defense, economy, says inmate
He further added that he voted as per his conscience and pressed the EVM button keeping the defense, agriculture and economy of the country in mind.
Moreover, a fresh voter-ID card was issued to him a month back at IMH's address as his old card was back home in Palavakkam.
IMH, Chennai, was established in 1794 and currently has around 900 inmates.
Fact: I am voting after 7 years, says a 55-year-old inmate
Further, a 55-year-old inmate said, "We lost our prominent leaders. Now, we have a responsibility to choose who is their next choice. I'm voting after 7 years. I am happy. Initially, I was disappointed as they said, I cannot vote. But today, I am happy."
Forms: NGO helped inmates fill voter-ID forms earlier this year
An inmate, who has spent last 15 years in IMH, said, "It's a great feeling. I am 34 and this is my first vote. I am really happy."
While the excitement was clearly visible, the credit also goes to the members of an NGO, Disability Rights Alliance, and the Chennai Corporation.
They helped these inmates to fill out their voter-ID forms earlier this year.
Fact: Proxy polling booth was set up at IMH for inmates
Chandrika said, "Residents here are quite informed. They have access to newspapers and TV news." In order to make the process easier for them, a polling booth was set up at IMH and they were made aware of the EVMs two days before.