The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Have card, but can't vote
Deletions draw a burst of complaints

Calcutta, April 27: At 7 am, when deputy election commissioner Anand Kumar stepped into Salt Lake's Samaj Sadan to begin his day's vigil, he was greeted by a 60-year-old man.

'I have been living here for over 25 years. I haven't died yet. How could they delete my name' asked Ranajit Roy, showing Kumar his voter's identity card.

With his hand on Roy's shoulder, Kumar took him aside. 'Give me the card number. I'll see what I can do,' he said.

Later, when the man asked whether he would be able to vote today, Kumar had to tell him: 'Aaj to nahin hoga (not today).'

This early morning episode in Salt Lake set the tone for the rest of the day, as Kumar went to Khardah, Titagarh, Manicktala, Dum Dum, Barr-ackpore, Rajarhat, Beliaghata and Behala.

By the end of the day, Kumar had heard enough of the same complaint. He declined comment on the deletions at first and then virtually announced a probe into the apparent lapse on the part of some election officials. 'I can't pass judgement on this issue on the day of polls. Rolls revision is a lengthy process. If there has been a lapse, strict action will be taken against all those responsible,' he said.

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

Most insisted that their names had been on the rolls and that they had voted either in the last parliamentary or panchayat elections.

According to chief electoral officer Debashis Sen, over 2.92 lakh names have been deleted from the rolls in the three districts after the final publication of rolls on February 22.

During the revision before February 22, over 13 lakh had been deleted across the state.

Many of the later deletions could have been made by mistake, election department officials conceded.

'There has been a fair amount of discrepancy in the rolls revision process this time, which could be because of the tight schedule,' an official explained.

'In Calcutta and the neighbouring districts, which have a floating population, it's difficult to keep track of who is living where and for how long. In many places, field officers have struck off names of peo-ple who were not at home or whose houses were found locked after one of two visits.'

At another booth in Salt Lake, Kumar was confronted by a voter whose family had been wiped out by the election officials. 'My name figures on the rolls, but those of my wife, son and daughter have been struck off. I want to declare that I live with them ' I haven't divorced them,' Arup Chakraborty told Kumar.

At Titagarh, Kumar received complaints of deletion of the names of 100 genuine voters. 'Leave me their names and their voter identity card numbers. I'll look into it,' he told a large gathering outside Titagarh's Upendrabhanja Vidyapith in the afternoon.

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