The Election Commission of India (EC) has left no stone unturned so that Asgar Ali – the oldest first-time voter – along with 9,775 other former enclave dwellers in Cooch Behar – feels at home when he and others go to the polling stations to cast their votes for the first time on Thursday.
“The stage is set. Elaborate arrangements have been made for the residents of former enclaves (chitmahals). As they would be voting for the first time a lot of preparations had to be made to educate them about the elections,” said a senior poll panel official in Kolkata.
To introduce these voters to the Indian poll process, the EC went to great lengths—preparing their EPICs and Photo Electoral Rolls and familiarising them with replicas of Electronic Voting Machines(EVMs) and Model Polling Stations(MPS).
“They were trained on how to enter a polling station, how to queue up, whom to ask for help, whom to show their EPIC cards, the location of EVMs inside booths, the buttons of the EVMs and how to cast their votes among others,” said the official.
A ‘mobile museum’ showcasing photos of booths and polling process, and replicas of EVMs, EPIC cards and Photo Electoral Rolls among others went to every settlement to educate the voters. Pamphlets were distributed and door-to-door campaigns were also conducted.
“A race – Run for Democracy – was also organized in which both voters and district officials participated to generate a sense of involvement among the voters,” he added.
In the last phase of polling, 25 assembly constituencies in two districts – East Midnapore and Cooch Behar – will be going to polls on May 5.
The former enclave dwellers are settled in five constituencies of Cooch Behar.
Hindustan Times had earlier reported that 1,660 enclave voters in Cooch Behar district were boycotting the polls to protest the lackadaisical attitude of the administration towards development of the area.
The protesting voters are residents of Sitalkuchi assembly constituency where Hiten Barman, the former forest minister, is the ruling Trinamool Congress candidate.
They form 17% of the eligible enclave voters.