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Voters take EC to court
Officer admits error in deletions

Calcutta, April 30: The Election Commission has been dragged to court by 11 people who were not allowed to vote on Thursday despite having valid voter identity cards.

The day Calcutta and neighbouring North and South 24-Parganas went to the polls, the poll panel was flooded with complaints or faced angry outbursts from voters who were turned away from booths.

Half a dozen of them have also moved the human rights commission.

'Eleven people have moved court against the Election Commission in connection with (the) deletion of names of genuine voters,' confirmed chief electoral officer Debashis Sen.

The chairman of the state rights commission, Shyamal Sen, said tonight: 'The voters who have lodged complaints with me are all genuine and it is a violation of human rights that they were denied the right to exercise their franchise.'

The names of his daughter-in-law Debarati and nephew's wife Ushri had been struck off the electoral rolls earlier, though they had voter IDs and had been living in the same area in north Calcutta for years.

They had complained to the chief electoral officer.

Voters gheraoed deputy election commissioner Anand Kumar waving their identity cards across the districts during the second and the third phase of the elections.

'I've been living here for over 25 years. I haven't died yet. How could they delete my name' 60-year-old Ranajit Roy, a Salt Lake resident, had asked Kumar.

'I'll see what I can do,' Kumar had told him and later in the day, in the face of protests almost everywhere he went, he said there would be a probe.

Polling officials said at least 7,000 people having voter I-cards were turned away from booths in Calcutta and the 24-Parganas because their names didn't figure on the rolls.

The chief electoral officer today admitted a lapse on the part of the poll panel.

'We were in the midst of a huge cleaning operation and some unintentional errors might have crept in for which we express our regret,' Debashis Sen said.

About 23.33 lakh names have been deleted from the rolls across the state so far. 'Even 1 per cent of 23.33 lakh means over 23,000 names,' an election official tried to explain.

Another official associated with the rolls revision in the districts said following the high-profile visits of election observers ' often flown down from Delhi on short notice ' and their whirlwind tours, ground-level officers worked at a 'frenzied pace' to weed out as many ghost voters as possible. 'In a situation like that, errors are not unlikely.'

The commission's action against some ground-level officials in the south Bengal districts for 'dereliction of duty' had also put the others under 'psychological pressure'.

'Our officers were under tremendous pressure. The inquiry before deleting names was often minimal,' a Nadia official said.

Kumar and Sen would tomorrow fly down to Burdwan, Murshidabad and Birbhum, where elections will be held on Wednesday. In all, 235 companies of paramilitary forces would be deployed in the three districts.

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