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Trawling Bengal voter list on the Net' Forget it

New Delhi, April 30: It happened to Pramod Mahajan, Adi Godrej, Pooja Bedi and Anupam Kher: they all landed up at the polling stations in Mumbai only to find that their names weren’t there on the voters’ list.

You may have to go through the same harrowing experience.

Could you spare yourself the trouble — avoid the needless embarrassment' Is there some way you could know in advance whether your name was on that list before you went out in the sweltering sun and shuffled through long lines at the booth only to suffer the ignominy of being sent away without being able to cast your vote'

The good news is that 20 states have voter lists that can be accessed on the Net. The bad news is that only 11 — and that does not include Bengal — have websites that have been organised in such a manner as to make the search worthwhile. The others have badly laid-out websites without search engines — which makes the whole exercise a waste of time.

The 11 states — Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Orissa, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Chattisgarh and national capital territory Delhi — have Boolean search engines which allow you to sift through the list either by name, address or voter ID number. In Meghalaya — and this should shame the people at Writers’ Buildings who are responsible for managing the list — you can trawl the list by simply typing the first alphabet of your name: it is simple and fast.

The official website of the chief electoral officer of Bengal (www.ceowb.org) has constituency- and part-wise lists of electors but its Search for an Elector facility is non-functional. Consequently, the voters in Bengal will have to spend a minimum of 15-30 minutes in front of the computer and pray that the Internet connection does not snap.

When the chief election commissioner’s office was as-ked about the lack of uniformity in management of websites, an official said: “Each state manages its list on its own. We have nothing to do with it. But all of them have to have a link to our main website.”

“The problem could have been reduced for the voters if they had taken the effort to get their names registered when we held special campaigns last year and also in the early part of this year,” said a top official in the office of the chief election commissioner.

The chief election commissioner is mulling the option of managing the websites centrally but that is unlikely to happen before the start of the third and fourth phase of elections that are just a few days away.

More than 12 websites for state chief electoral officers have been designed, developed and hosted by the National Informatics Centre under the department of information and technology. While the website developed for Meghalaya has an easy Boolean search to check voters’ names, the website developed by the same organisation for Chandigarh is more difficult and slow.

The website of the chief electoral officer of Bengal has been designed by the computer unit of the home (Constitution and election) department in Writers’ Buildings in Calcutta.

One of the fastest and easy-to-use website is the one run by Andhra Pradesh — www.ceoap.apts.gov.in — which has been designed by AP Technology Services. The people in Writers’ Buildings would do well to check this out to remove the deficiencies in their own website.

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