Monday, June 29, 2015

50% Of Hyderabad Voters Gone Off-Rolls Due To EC Check

By Syed Amin Jafri in Hyderabad
This is happening in our Hyderabad. Believe it or not, the electoral registration officers (EROs) under the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) have marked out the names of 18.30 lakh voters for deletion from the electoral rolls in Hyderabad district on the ground that they have shifted residence or their houses were found locked. 

This means that almost 45 to 50 percent of the 40.98 lakh voters in the 15 assembly constituencies forming part of Hyderabad revenue district would get disenfranchised soon, as the process of verification by EROs is coming to a close.

Lakhs of eligible voters, whose only `fault' is that they remained `elusive' to the `invisible' block level officers (BLOs) when they had purportedly visited their houses for Aadhaar seeding, would be struck off the rolls after notices are pasted on their door numbers giving them a week's time to present themselves. It is another matter that the BLOs are supposed to obtain acknowledgement for the notices when the voters purportedly shifted from the houses or kept their premises locked! Strange are the ways of the electoral authorities indeed.

It may be recalled that after intensive revision undertaken in the year 2013, the final electoral rolls were published on January 31, 2014, and the number of electors stood at 35, 98,152.Subsequently , the number of voters swelled to 39, 65,284 in Hyderabad district with online registrations on the eve of general elections held on April 30, 2014. Summary revision of electoral rolls was taken up again in November-December 2014 and the final rolls were published on January 17, 2015, after disposal of claims and objections. Gram sabhas and meetings of ward commit tees and resident welfare associations were purportedly held during the summary revision.

As per SSR (final rolls) 2015, as many as 40,98,491 eligible voters were enrolled in the 15 assembly constituencies of Hyderabad district. Subsequently , the electoral authorities launched the “National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme“ (NERPAP) in March 2015 after appointment of BLOs and supervisors. Aadhaar seeding (linking of EPICvoter ID cards with Aadhaar cards) was taken up as part of the NERPAP . The GHMC was entrusted the task of Aadhaar seeding in Hyderabad district as GHMC commissioner is designated as the district election officer (un like in other districts where the district collectors are DEOs).

Door-to-door verification by the BLOs was taken up from April 1, 2015, for collection of Aadhaar details and inclusion of Aadhaar numbers in the electoral rolls, as well as for identification of the shifted dead or `ineligible' voters, deletion of multiple entries and correction of errors in the rolls. The three-month-long campaign is now coming to an end. As per the latest progress report, the BLOs could collect Aadhaar details of 11,60,695 voters out of the total of 40,98,496 enrolled electors in Hyderabad district. Another 1, 12,384 voters have furnished Aadhaar details on their own.

The BLOs have “found“ that as many as 9, 85,902 voters shifted their residence and another 7,50,573 voters had locked the premises during their visits. Besides, the BLOs also noticed that 71,186 voters had duplicate EPICs, 22,946 voters were `ineligible' and 44,037 voters were dead. These five categories of voters added up to 18, 74,644 (or 45.74 percent of total electors). Even after removal of names of dead voters, the number of voters who stand to get disenfranchised comes to 18, 30,607 or 44.66 percent. 

The fact is that 4, 86,592 voters are yet to be verified by the BLOs. Overall, about 50 percent electors (or 20 lakh voters) may lose their right to vote since they were not `spotted' by the BLOs. It is another issue that lakhs of voters in Hyderabad may not have seen the faces of their BLOs since no one visited their houses during the Aadhaar seeding campaign. In many cases, the BLOs are also not familiar with the areas coming under their booths (polling stations) and thus indulge in `ghost verification.' 

This partly explains the large number of voters marked for deletion on account of `shifting“ their residences or keeping their houses door-locked.' Unless the voters, political parties, resident welfare associations, non-governmental organisations and civil rights groups rise to the occasion to ensure that mass-scale deletions are not carried out by the electoral authorities, we may see the spectre of the forthcoming GHMC elections being reduced to a sham by keeping out lakhs of eligible voters from exercising their franchise, all in the name of “Aadhaar seeding“ and electoral roll purification campaign, though the Supreme Court has ruled that Aadhaar cards are not mandatory.

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