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Madhya Pradesh assembly election: EC's high-tech claims fall flat; SMS & phone service crash at polling booths

Tue, 11/26/2013 - 11:36 -- deepti.gahrotra

Enthusiasm to vote turned into disappointment for many when they had to return without exercising right of franchise, here on Monday. Reliance of those engaged into election duty on manual rolls at polling booths belied tall claims of Election Commission (EC) going hi-tech. SMS service and toll-free telephone lines for providing voters with information also crashed on the polling day, strengthening the argument from many that the EC proved unequal to the task on this front.

The EC had announced voters can know about their polling booth and serial number in electoral rolls through SMS. But SMS on the number 51969 drew blank as Fazal Khan realised. "I could not locate my polling booth despite sending an SMS to 51969 and calls to toll-free number on 1950 with 10 lines could not help either," he said.

While use of technology has yet to make an impact inside polling stations, outside political parties' volunteers, armed with laptops and printers, were ready to serve and search at a click of a button.

"Forget general or state elections, I have never missed the opportunity to cast my vote during municipality elections," said 54-year-old Mohammed Rafiq. This resident of Shahjehanabad found it hard to believe that despite having a voter ID card he could not cast his vote.

His name was missing from revised voter list of polling booth number 154 that comes under Bhopal North constituency. "My entire family, including newly-wed daughter-in-law could cast their votes, I am the only one left out," he added.

46-year-old bank executive Sathya Gama, found out polling booths were not friendly for visually impaired. "In previous election, I was provided Braille script to follow and vote on the EVM machine. It was missing this time round and I had to seek my husband's help," she claimed. Gama is a resident of Govindpura.

Yasir Sher Khan, a representative of candidate, who was stationed at polling booth number 70, claimed that more than a dozen voters returned dejected after their names were not found in the voting list. "Many people could not cast their vote due to gross errors in the survey conducted by the EC staff," alleged Khan. Instances of voters being turned away from polling booths were reported from Rajeev Gandhi College (Shahpura), Syedia school (Itwara), Central Library area and Koh-e-Fiza.

For newly-wed Mahima Issrani casting her first vote in the state turned out to be an exercise in futility.

"I have not been able to find my name in three polling booths already but my name is listed in electoral roll," said Issrani outside Career College, in BHEL area. "One final try, else I am headed home.

Source: Times of India

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