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In east, citizens man help centres

The eastern suburbs saw some sporadic violence, hi-tech closed-circuit television cameras to monitor booths — and citizens who had brought their own laptops to help voters find their polling centres.

india Updated: Oct 14, 2009 01:15 IST
HT Correspondent

The eastern suburbs saw some sporadic violence, hi-tech closed-circuit television cameras to monitor booths — and citizens who had brought their own laptops to help voters find their polling centres.

The day started with an altercation at a Ghatkopar centre. Moments after the police ordered an evacuation because one of the electronic voting machines had malfunctioned, about 25 MNS workers representing candidate Ram Kadam began hurling abuse at the inspector in charge, accusing him of being in cahoots with a rival party.

The police registered a complaint, order was soon restored and polling resumed.

Ghatkopar East was perhaps the most peaceful constituency, and, at 52 per cent, had one of the highest turnouts. Benches had been lined up outside polling centres in advance, so senior citizens could rest while they waited to check their names at the public assistance booths.

The Congress helped speed up the process here, checking voters’ registrations on their laptops. “This is easier for people than waiting while an officer looks through 10 booklets of numbers,” said volunteer Altaf Lakhda (28).

Meanwhile, a number of citizens in this area turned up with their own laptops, volunteering to help voters find their names through the government website.

“People get fed up and leave without voting when such problems arise,” said Lajwanti Punjabi (46) a lecturer perched outside a centre in Chembur. “We want to make sure they find their names quickly and vote.”

Punjabi’s friend Preeti Jain pointed out that the website could help people find out where they were registered, if they were at the wrong centre.

“Our objective is to make sure that nobody who wants to vote loses this chance,” she said.

In Mankhurd-Shivaji Nagar, which had the highest number of candidates in the city, authorities installed 32 CCTVs in booths to ensure there was no malpractice.

The queues were serpentine at many centres, and this meant a long wait, but voters said they felt it was a good sign.
“I was bored, but happy to see the turnout,” said 22-year-old sociology student Pooja Jain.

It was a wasted trip for quadriplegic Joharsingh Rathod (56), though. The wheelchair-bound Kurla resident turned up at his centre alone, since his family “didn’t want to bother”.

“I have been told that my name is not on the rolls,” he said, “even though I have been voting for 15 years.”