February 15th, 2017
“Hum kuch nahi kar sakte madam, yeh sab upar se hokar aata hai” (We can’t do anything madam, all this comes from the higher ups).
“11 February 2017, Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh.
This had been a much-awaited date for the entire Uttar Pradesh state. While some people were happy about the extra holiday they had been gifted with, others were actually thrilled to cast their vote, amidst all the political tension that the state had witnessed recently. I fall into the latter category. My father had a cardiac surgery on 7 Feb and got discharged from the hospital on 10 Feb. While the situation didn’t allow us to leave him alone at home, I went along with my brother to cast our vote at our assigned voting venue. My mother was to go after we came back, as she had to take care of Papa meanwhile. We had not yet received our voting slips and therefore, decided to collect it from the voting venue itself.
Reaching there, I saw around 20-30 people cluttered around the party helpdesk searching for their slips. Agents and sometimes supporters of different political parties often set up their booths to assist voters in distributing their voting slips. I asked one of the persons at the desk to find mine. He couldn’t find my name in his list and therefore, told me to go to the helpdesk set up by Election Commission outside the venue.
The EC helpdesk staff couldn’t find my name on their list as well and asked me to return home saying, “Aapka naam nahi hai list mein, aap aaj vote nahi kar sakti” (Your name is not on our list. You cannot vote today). Strangely enough, my brother’s name was there, but my name, along with my mother and father’s name, had been tagged as “विलोपित” (omitted/cancelled). This means that for reasons unknown, our names had been deleted from their records.
I was still adamant to vote and asked a lady sitting on the other side of the helpdesk what I could do next. She very casually told me, “Hum kuch nahi kar sakte ismein, yeh sab upar sey hokar aata hai. Aap ghar jaaiye” (We can’t do anything about it. It is all done at higher levels. Please go home). Hello! I had a voter ID card, Aadhar Card, Driving License and every other document. How can you have the name of one of my family members and missed writing the other three? “Yeh toh hota rehta hai madam. Lagta hai first time vote kar rahi ho isliye itna pareshan ho. Humara khud ka naam nahi hai list mein. Tension mat lo, next time kar lena” (This is not something new, it is common. It seems like it is the first time that you’re voting and thus, you are so concerned. It is OK. Even our names are not there in the list. There’s nothing to worry about. Go home. You can vote in the next election).
The staff was so disinterested and arrogant that I decided to go to the party booth again which was still crowded with people (even more by now) trying to find their voting slips. After discussing with people around, I got to know that there had been more than 200 voters by 1 pm whose names were not there in the list and consequently, could not vote. People were still so enthusiastic about voting that they were actually standing in queues trying to locate their slips, running from party helpdesk to EC helpdesk so that they could vote.
The determination of the citizens cannot be underestimated, like it is mostly projected. While there were others standing in queues, there was a lady who had come directly from the hospital with her husband to cast her vote, and needed help to go inside. She also could not find her name in the first list while I was there. I don’t know whether she managed to find her name later.
I again went to the EC helpdesk one final time. This time the helpdesk lady was in no mood to even address my concern. “Tension mat lo. Aap akeli nahi ho. Subah sey bohot logo ke vote kat chuke hain” (Don’t worry. You are not the only person. It’s happened with many people since morning). These were the words of the EC helpdesk staff meant to “help” the voters. Having such arrogant and unwilling staff who have no idea about the job they are expected to do is shameful as well as unacceptable.
I had no other option left now, but to come home and raise this issue. It is sad that there is no convenient platform laid to raise this issue and for the same reason, it has not been taken seriously yet. I have already registered a complaint through e-mail on ECI official website and am still waiting for a reply. This incident is at one booth of one small city. Considering the number of total booths in the entire state, we can’t even begin to imagine the amount to valuable votes we lose.
The government that comes to power eventually, is it even a government chosen by the people… the state? In the end, it’s only a fraction of total state population that becomes the deciding factor. Isn’t it about time now? It isn’t always about those 30-35% voters who didn’t show up to vote. It is also about those who did, but could not vote. Let’s think about it.”
Submitted By: Preeti Panwar