Tuesday 16 September 2014

The System Works

A few months back the general elections were held and as usual there was a scurry of activity amongst all political parties to ensure that all eligible voters had their names in voting lists. I have been a regular voter at all elections held till then. However under a voter eligibility exercise undertaken by the Election Commission (EC), a whole lot of citizens found themselves with missing rights. Apparently whoever did not answer the Election Commission's knock on the door were delisted. In a city like Mumbai where almost everyone is out at work during the day, there would be few retaining their rights in this manner.

Damage done, the EC swung into immediate action. One could visit the EC website or the local office, check whether your name has been deleted and then fill a certain form for enrollment. You have to submit some proof of identity and address along with photo. Nothing complicated. You could do it for yourself and all your family members as well.

The EC website for Maharashtra was extremely helpful, informative as to the purpose, and easy to navigate (https://ceo.maharashtra.gov.in/). To my advantage the Karyakarta of the local political party provided me with the polling district number and the correct district name. I entered the details and lo behold, the details of my name deletion were before me. I quickly downloaded the enrollment form, and also took a print of the proof of name deletion.

The enrollment form was not at all complicated. Only basic details like name, address, and date of birth. Details of other family members who are registered voters at the same address which I guess was for a quick search and a ready reference. If you held a voting card, mention those details as well. Form filled, photocopies of proofs made and self attested, I headed to the local EC office at 11 am by which time I was sure the staff would be in their seats.

The local office of the EC was in a municipal school occupying the entire assembly hall on the ground floor. The staff seemed to have been sourced from various state government departments. On enquiring I was directed to a window that opened onto the back of the school. There were just 5 persons standing in front of me. Should not take long I thought. Well not the right thought I must say. The first person took 20 minutes which kind of set the tone for a long wait. The question to me was why was it taking so long if it was just about form submission. The problem was not about the process or staff attitude. It was the applicant who either did not have all the information requested for or was trying to establish some right for his residence or simply could not comprehend what was asked for in the application form despite its simplicity. Most of the time I realized was being spent in locating the listing of the applicant in the original list wherefrom it had been deleted. The applicants were either giving a wrong plot number or road or quoting the wrong name of their building or at times their nick names, suffixes and prefixes (a whole lot of balu, bandya, gotya, appa, anna, nana, tai, ben, etc). I have to admit that the person manning the window was showing huge patience in handling such crowds. Add to that each of the applicant was carrying application forms for almost all their family members.

When my turn came after about 75 minutes, I simply handed over my form and the copy of my original listing that had been deleted. The man at the window could not have been happier. All he had to do now was pull out the book with the number that corresponded with the number on the print I had handed him, go to the page number that was also mentioned, and confirm my name and address. This took less than a minute. Next he stamped my form, entered all corresponding numbers to my name in a separate book, stamped my acknowledgement and handed it back to me. Then he proceeded to thank me thrice and how I had helped him. Total time taken about 3 minutes.

I thanked the staffer and walked away feeling pleased at having done my duty. A month later I received a letter from the EC informing me that my name had been deleted from the voting list and that I should fill in the attached forms and submit them at the nearest EC office. Arrgghh. What happened to all my efforts. I chose to do nothing immediately and thought of visiting the EC office when the next elections were announced.

Yesterday I got a message from the friendly neighbourhood karyakarta informing me that the voters lists had been updated. If my name was still missing I have an opportunity to update it in the next three days.

I went back to the EC website (https://ceo.maharashtra.gov.in/) and entered my name in the prescribed form in the search field for updated lists. My name appeared with my correct age and address. I even had the option of downloading the entire voters list for my district in PDF form and confirm my details.

The system works as long as you co-operate with it.

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