The Telegraph
Friday , April 18 , 2014
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Inked on democracy day

- Bhubaneswar scores low on voter turnout

Polling for the three Assembly constituencies and one parliamentary constituency in the city today ended peacefully. However, the voter turnout was low again despite sustained voter awareness campaigns.

As many as 4,300 polling officials and 716 police personnel were engaged in the poll process today. At a booth in Gosagareswar under the Ekamra Assembly constituency, an electronic voting machine developed a minor problem. But that was fixed immediately.

However, several voters had to return home disappointed because they could not find their names in the electoral rolls.

Nrupa Kishore Patnaik, a senior citizen from Kalunanda Nagar in Pokhariput, could not find his name in the book containing the photo voters’ slips. “I have seen my name in the website, but voter the slip was not delivered and I returned disappointed,” he said.

In many areas, people alleged that the booth-level officers did not distribute photo voters’ slips in time. The chief electoral officer’s office had instructed the booth-level officers to distribute the slips at the doorstep of each voter in the city.

“We were waiting for the voters’ slips but the booth-level officers of our area never distributed the slips before the election day,” said Jyotsna Rani Das, a senior citizen of Ashok Nagar.

Chief electoral officer Mona Sharma admitted that there were some problems with the electoral roll. “But citizens should be responsible and ensure that their names were on the electoral roll much before the poll date,” she said.

Prasanna Patasani shows his inked finger after casting vote and (right) Odisha chief secretary Jugal Kishore Mohapatra and his wife drink buttermilk at a polling booth in Bhubaneswar on Thursday. Pictures by Sanjib Mukherjee

“We introduced an SMS service on March 9, so that those who could not find their names on the voter list could SMS us, but many failed to utilise the opportunity. In a place like Bhubaneswar, voters trying to find their names on the day of the poll is not encouraging,” she said.

Khurda collector and district election officer Shalini Pandit said the tentative polling rate in the three urban constituencies of Bhubaneswar would cross the 40 per cent mark.

While the educated and elite urban voters in the heart of the city did not turn up in large numbers, people living on the outskirts came in large numbers to exercise their voting right. Banguari, a polling station on the city outskirts on the bank of Kuakhai river, witnessed nearly 60 per cent voting till 2pm.

“We had distributed all the photo voters’ slips by April 15. As the people here are permanent residents, there is no problem in doing so. During the civic poll last January, the turnout was above 70 per cent and today, we hope the turnout rate would touch that mark,” said booth-level officer Champabati Murmu.

In order to ensure a free and fair polling process, six polling booths in the city were put under the Internet surveillance process called “webcasting” that anyone could see.

Webcasting was conducted for the general public for the first time.

“During the civic poll in January, webcasting was done only for the officials involved in the poll process.

“But today, it was made available for the public too,” said Damayanti Das of Sahaj e-Village, a company that provides technical assistance to the state government on webcasting.