LS polls: Para archer Sheetal Devi to be ECI National PwD Icon

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New Delhi: The Election Commission has named Arjuna Awardee para archer Sheetal Devi as the National Icon in the PwD category.

The announcement was made during an Exhibition Cricket Match between the Indian Deaf Cricket Association (IDCA) Team and the Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA) team to foster voter education and inclusivity. The match was held at Karnail Singh Stadium in New Delhi. On the occasion,

Hailing from Loidhar village in Kishtwar,  Sheetal is the first female archer without arms to compete internationally. Last year, she won two medals at the Asian Para Games in Hangzhou.

Sheetal has a unique knack for holding and balancing the 27.5-kilogram bow with her right leg. She pulls the string back using a manual releaser attached to her right shoulder, and uses a device called the trigger, held in her mouth, to direct the arrow at a target 50 meters away. All the while, she holds herself upright on the seat with her left leg.

Born with Phocomelia, a rare congenital disorder that causes under-developed limbs, she could not even lift the bow properly.

Her transformation from a school-going girl to an Asian Para Games medallist started when she enrolled in a youth event organized by the Indian Army in Kishtwar in 2021. Sheetal caught the attention of the scouts because of her athleticism. To get her a prosthetic arm, they reached out to the Major Akshay Girish Memorial Trust in Bengaluru, which in turn contacted Being You, an online storytelling platform.

Last year, she was honored with the prestigious Arjuna Award for exemplary sports feat. In November, she made India proud again when she was ranked the world’s number one para archer.

Meanwhile, ECI launched a dedicated Voter’s Guide for PwDs and Senior Citizen Electors. The comprehensive booklet outlines essential provisions available to PwDs and senior citizens, including infrastructural, informative, and procedural details at polling stations, as well as the applicability and procedure for Postal Ballots, facilitating a smooth and pleasurable voting experience.

The measures follow key initiatives undertaken by the Commission towards PwDs. These include inter alia, optional home voting facility for PwDs with benchmarked disabilities, mapping of Persons with Disabilities polling station-wise, provision of free transportation on poll day, disability-specific facilitations at all polling stations, accessibility checklist at polling stations, appointment of State and District PwD Icons, awareness campaigns, the Saksham ECI App, Braille enabled EPICs and EVMs.

The Election Commission of India remains confident that such initiatives will significantly enhance voter participation, particularly among youth and persons with disabilities, in the upcoming general elections. Through a meticulously designed framework of guidelines and inclusive measures, the Commission is committed to ensuring a truly representative and robust democracy.