Cuttack: The Election Commission (EC) in Odisha, in its initiative to encourage physically handicapped people to vote in large numbers, has roped in national blind cricket team captain Md Jafar Iqbal as its `icon`.
"The celebrity blind cricketer would encourage blind voters to exercise their franchise," an official at the Cuttack District Election Office said here, adding that special ballot papers had been prepared for this purpose.
The icon would also participate in workshops where he would interact with the blind voters who are not familiar with Braille, the official said.
There are around 22,000 physically handicapped voters in the district and among them around 3,000 are partially or completely blind, official sources said.
Cuttack along with Khurda and Ganjam districts in the state have been identified as pilot districts to implement the Braille signage system to facilitate the blind voters to use EVM to cast their votes independently.
According to a government survey, all the 14 blocks of Cuttack district and the two units of the city have blind voters in significant numbers and they would be electing nine MLAs and have a say in the election of three MPs in this year`s election.
Earlier blind voters cast their votes with the assistance of another person, which was not only cumbersome but against the spirit of secret ballot.
Apart from this unique arrangement for blind voters, the district, which recently got a national recognition for its notable performance in rehabilitating physically handicapped people, has also put other facilities in place at booths to facilitate all types of disabled voters.
"All 2,171 booths in the district are designed as disabled-friendly," the District Electoral Officer and district collector Girish SN said.