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Shops shut, turnout low

Labour dept received 255 complaints from employees who were not given a holiday to vote, reports Naresh Kamath.

mumbai Updated: Oct 14, 2009 01:18 IST
Naresh Kamath

Although shops and commercial establishments followed the Labour Department’s directive to remain closed on voting day, the move did not translate into a huge voter turnout.

In an attempt to lure voters to exercise their franchise, the Labour Department circular on October 1 had directed shops and other commercial establishments to grant a paid holiday to their employees who wanted to vote. But only 45 per cent of Mumbai voted, 2 per cent less than the last Assembly polls in 2004, when no holiday had been declared.

Shops, multiplexes, malls and hotels were closed till late evening and opened after the voting process got over at 5 pm.
A 60 per cent voter turnout was registered across the state, compared with 63 per cent voting recorded during the 2004 Assembly polls.

“It was unfortunate that we had to keep our shops shut during the festive season. Despite this, the polling percentage did not improve. Such steps do not work,” said Viren Shah, Joint Secretary, Federation of Retail Traders and Welfare Association. “The employers responded positively to our request and more than 90 per cent of the establishments were closed during the voting time,” said Arvind Kumar, State Labour Commissioner.

The directive stated that punitive action will be taken against employers who did not grant leave to their employees. The Labour Department received 255 complaints from employees who were not given the holiday by their owners, of which 100 were from Mumbai and Pune each and 29 from Thane. Kumar said the offenders were not big establishments but small shops and hotels.

He said the complaints have been forwarded to the returning officers and collectors who would initiate action under Section 135 (B) of the Representation of People Act, which includes a fine of Rs 500.