Closed offices, staff coming in late: Help centres for voters not very helpful

Mar 10, 2014, 02:34 IST | Priyankka Deshpande

Election commission’s special drive to enrol voters yesterday was a damp squib in the city, owing to lack of adequate information, and lackadaisical attitude of officers

In a bid to increase the voter turnout for this year’s Lok Sabha elections, the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced a countrywide drive on March 9 to register new voters after the election dates were declared on March 5.

This plan backfired, with Booth Level Officers (BLO) opening the registration centres late and, in many places, the district administration failed to provide correct information to the citizens.

Balloters in Pune district faced a hard time getting their names enrolled in the voter’s list at their centres and also in getting hold of registration forms.

Shutters down: A closed voter's registration centre at a government polytechnic institute, with a banner that indicates it is a help centre, flummoxed many citizens who showed up there. Pic/Mohan Patil

RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar who had gone to Annasaheb Magar Madhyamik Vidyalaya In Pimple Saudagar to enrol himself said that there was a shortage of form 6 (application for inclusion of name in voter’s list) which impelled the citizens to buy the forms at R25 each from a nearby shop.

Latecomers: The centre in Kendriya Vidyalaya 1 at Lohegaon where BLOs came in an hour and a half late. Pic/Mohan Patil

“Two women who wanted form number 6 were told by the BLO to get the form from outside the voter’s help centre. However, the women refused to get it as it was being sold for R25 each in a Xerox shop,” said Kumbhar.

When Senapati Bapat Road resident, Jugal Rathi visited the voter’s help centre at Government Polytechnic, he found out that the centre was closed. “Big banners were displayed at the entrance gate of the institute advertising ECI’s special voter’s drive which confused many citizens like me. After an inquiry, the staff of the institute told me to go to another centre as the centre closed as per orders from the district collector,” said Rathi.

A resident of Pimple Saudagar, Abhijit Kumbhar who reached Annasaheb Magar Vidyalay at 10 am, had to wait for one hour for the BLOs to get to the centre and begin their work. “They came at around 11 am, two hours late from the scheduled time given by ECI. Their apathy didn’t stop over there. When I wanted to submit my form 6, the BLOs present told me that they didn’t receive any information whether to accept form 6 from citizens,” said Kumbhar who finally left the centre without enrolling.

Considering the complaints received from across the country regarding names not showing up in the voter’s list, the ECI decided to solve this predicament by offering one more enrolment opportunity by conducting this drive. “I fear that March 9 would not be a last chance to enrol, as one of the centres - Kendriya Vidyalaya 1- in Lohegaon was not open even by 11 am yesterday due to which many citizens returned without enrolling their name in the voter’s list,” said resident of Lohegaon Bipin Kumar Ojha. Similar complaints were received from various centres in Khadki.

>> Citizens were made to wait for more than two hours for some centres to open doors
>> Registration forms were being sold for Rs 25 each at a shop near one centre
>> District collector Saurabh Rao says registrations went smoothly

63 Lakh Total number of voters in the district
7,117 No of voters’ registration centres for special drive
76,000 Citizens enrolled under this campaign

‘No complaints’

District collector Saurabh Rao, however, claimed that he didn’t receive any complaints and the registration work went on smoothly. “I was personally taking rounds of various voters’ registration centres across the district and I didn’t come across any such incidents,” said Rao.

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