Pune: To a layperson like me, the concept of online voter registration/ name correction would mean submitting an online voter application form under a prescribed format, supporting documents and assuming that the work is indeed done. But then what would laypersons like me know? Because an online voter registration actually means merely submitting a form online, one is expected to later be present for a ‘hearing’ in person to present a Xerox copy of the same documents that they attached to the online form to a clerk who barely looks up from the desk.
But as I learnt over the past five days, submitting these documents to an uninterested clerk is not such a simple task. Here’s why I say so. As the deadline for voter registration drive drew close, on March 14, I quickly logged onto the website of Election Commission of India and filled up the registration form, scanned and attached the documents and was pleased to receive an SMS of acceptance.
Pleased with myself, I was gloating over completing the task when I received a message asking me to be present in the office of ERO, AC Number 213 for a hearing on March 16. That’s it. No address, no instructions on what I was expected to do at the hearing. Also March 16 was a Sunday and one day after the deadline, would my form be accepted then? I logged onto the website again hoping to get some clarity, the status read ‘Form Submitted, Pending’.
From the website, I obtained the number of ERO, AC Number 213. A dozen calls went unanswered. I called on the helpline numbers declared by District Election Officer. The man on the other line simply told me, AC Number 213’s address is Hadapsar Ward Office and assured me officials would be present on the assigned date.
On Sunday, I hired a cab and dragged my husband who had been operated two weeks ago to the ward office, 12 kms from home. It was locked and a drunk security guard told me to come back the next day. Irked, I called the helpline and they told me to go to the ward office. When I told them I was waiting there and it was locked, they advised me to write an article since I was a media person and assured me they had written down my complaint. The same officials told me to come back the next day on Holi, as officials were working on ‘special election duty.’
The next day, I asked a friend who lived locally to check, the office was locked. I called up the helpline again who repeated their advice, ‘Try tomorrow.’
On Tuesday, at 11.30 pm I reached the Hadapsar office with my husband, a lady security guard told me EC officials had stopped coming to the office since March 15 and advised that I should visit the Zilla Parishad office.
Around 12.30pm, I reached ZP office where deputy district election officer Apoorva Wankhede on the third floor heard me out and then spoke to the concerned officer who re-directed me to a lady clerk on the fourth floor.
When I reached there, a clerk told me that since she had left for Sadhana School in Hadapsar, I should follow her there. It was after I raised my voice that the clerk accepted my documents and furnished a receipt, it took a total of 2 minutes. My husband skipped his physiotherapy sessions yesterday. A layperson like him didn’t know the lift shuts downs at ZP office at 1.30pm and he would have to climb down three flights of stairs hopping down with his recently operated knee, enough exercise for a day.