Cashing in on the out of stock voter registration forms in Parvati constituency, shopkeepers in the area are making a quick buck by selling a photocopied set of the forms to citizens for Rs 10 each.
With the elections looming, many unregistered voters are looking to enrol their names in the electoral list by filing the voter registration form before the October 16 deadline. The form is disbursed free of cost by the Election Commission. But, taking undue advantage of the scarcity, shopkeepers in the vicinity of the two designated voting centres are ripping off citizens by asking them to pay for the eight-page form for the past 10 days.
The matter came to light after residents started complaining that after visiting both centres they had to return empty-handed. MiD DAY visited both centres and found that the shops from the area have stocked up on photocopies of the forms and are selling it for Rs 10 each. Residents from the area are, however, a harassed lot, as the shortage of forms has left them in the lurch.
“Since last week onwards, I have been trying to get the form and have visited the centre at least thrice, but they are out of stock,” said Sinhagad Road resident Mangesh Bujave. “Since the last date for submitting forms is October 16, it is the centres’ responsibility to provide the forms, otherwise many potential voters will give up and it will hamper the overall percentage of voting,” he said.
With more than three lakh voters casting their vote from the Parvati constituency in the recently concluded legislative elections, it is a key battleground for political parties. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has called it an artificially created scarcity to deter educated voters from registering. BJP corporator Manjusha Nagpure of the Hingane area claimed that it is pseudo scarcity created by the ruling party with the help of EC employees.
“Potential voters, especially the educated class, get discouraged after struggling for registration. After visiting centres several times, they then avoid registering their name, which in turn hampers the total number of educated voters. It will then be easy to buy votes from the slum area. This is a conspiracy to keep away educated voters,” said Nagpure.
Shripad Dekhane, BJP, city-treasurer, said that they have complained to district election office about this issue and demanded immediate action.
Meanwhile, centre supervisors said that the forms have not been available for the last eight days. Blaming their superiors for the negligence, they said that they have put in a requisition for forms several times, but have not received any reply from the EC head office.
“We have demanded our head office to provide the forms as early as possible. What can we do if there is shortage of forms?” Ravindra Kathole, supervisor of the Hingane centre, said. Apurva Wankhede, deputy district election officer, said, “In case of shortage, it is the responsibility of the centre to ensure there is enough stock by borrowing forms from the neighbouring constituency and taking photocopies in bulk. People should get the form totally free of cost. It is the fault of the centres. We are going to issue strict instructions to the centres situated in Parvati constituency.”
Shop owner Mistri Lal, who is selling these forms, spoke on behalf of the shopkeepers, saying, “Many people have been coming to our shop to make photocopies of the form. Since, it is an eight-paged form, to ensure quick service we have made photocopies and kept them ready. We are not selling these forms, but are only recovering the photocopy cost.”