The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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EC raises stink over police garbage

Calcutta, Feb. 3: As its rolls cleansing drive entered Calcutta, the Election Commission’s anger boiled over at a “shoddy” list, handed by police, of voters whose names could warrant deletion.

City police bosses were ticked off by commission observer P.K. Chowdhury today for their “callous attitude” in tracing those evading arrest.

The poll panel had asked the state to strike off the voter list those against whom non-bailable warrants hadn’t been executed in six months unless they appeared before election officials following notices served on them, proving they hadn’t fled the constituency.

In Calcutta, notices could be sent to only 162 from a list of 2,473 the police had sent to the election department.

Asked to explain this, poll officials said most of the names and addresses were wrong; some weren’t names of people at all.

“Names of many companies figure on the list. The addresses are equally vague: one simply says ‘Dhapa dumping ground’,” an official said.

A furious Chowdhury had sought a meeting with the police brass today.

At the Calcutta district election office, deputy commissioners Anuj Sharma (headquarters) and Gyanwant Singh (detective department) were left mumbling lame excuses as Chowdhury tore into them. “Only 162 people could be traced out of 2,473'. What are the police doing'” the observer asked.

His anger was at the “shoddy” job, which may allow a large number of absconding accused to avoid deletion from the rolls because police had got their names and addresses wrong.

As the officers watched, Chowdhury demonstrated how bad the list was. He sat down before a computer and began a random online search for three persons from the list. When his efforts proved futile, he tried again, this time typing in the fathers’ names into the search engine.

When this, too, drew a blank, he turned towards Sharma and Singh. “Can it be that not one of these people are voters in Calcutta' Even their fathers’ names don’t figure on the voter list. How reliable is this information, which comes from police records'” he asked.

“Sir, aisa ho sakta hai (it can happen),” Sharma said meekly. “These people may have been convicted in petty cases; so, the police didn’t take special interest in their background. We received many of these names from court records.”

The observer wasn’t impressed. He snapped out his orders: “Scrutinise this list again and find more details about the untraced people ' at least get their names and addresses right. I want a report before I leave on February 8.”

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