The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Epic battle on bogus voters

Calcutta, Dec. 3: The Election Commission has shifted its glare to false voters in Bengal.

Come 2006, those who have been allotted electoral photo identity cards (EPIC) will be allowed to vote only if they carry the same as proof of identification.

Till now, any document from a bouquet of 17 forms of identification was accepted, offering a wide range of options to bogus voters to play foul.

“An official will be deployed at every booth only to check if voters who are allotted the electoral cards are carrying them. If they are not, they will not be allowed to vote. The EC is doing this to facilitate clear identification of the voters,” said a senior official in the state chief electoral officer’s office.

“Earlier, voters were allowed to vote if they could furnish any of 17 documents prescribed by the commission. We have never insisted on the poll card,” the official said.

Poll cards were made mandatory during the Asansol parliamentary bypoll in September.

But the Assembly elections in 2006 will be the first exercise in the state to be covered fully by the new rule as part of a drive by the commission to replicate the Bihar model in Bengal.

The decision was communicated to state government officials by chief election commissioner B.B. Tandon during his meeting with them at Durgapur yesterday.

“The question of 100 per cent EPIC coverage in the state did come up during the discussion with the CEC in Durgapur. The deployment of one polling personnel at every booth to check if voters are carrying EPIC was communicated to us,” state chief electoral officer Debashish Sen said.

Sources said the polling official outside the booth will have a copy of the electoral roll, which specifies whether or not a voter has been allotted an EPIC.

Those who have not been allotted the poll card will have to establish their identity by furnishing one of the 17 authorised documents, such as PAN card, passport, driving licence, bank pass book, post office pass book, rent receipt, telephone bill and electricity bill.

Sen said an excuse that the poll identity card has been lost would not be accepted without proof.

“In case the EPIC is lost, a voter is expected to lodge a diary with the local police. Armed with a receipt of the general diary, he will have to go to the electoral registration officer concerned and obtain a duplicate on payment of a fee,” he added.

A circular from the commission is expected shortly, officials said. A fresh effort will also be launched for spreading the poll card coverage, now hovering around 92 per cent, in the state.

Tandon is set to visit Bengal again on December 6. The commission has not yet finalised the number of observers to be deployed in Bengal, but officials said observers are likely to be earmarked for every Assembly constituency.

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