Hyderabad: As elections to 119 Assembly seats of India's youngest state, Telangana, began on Friday, early voters faced the same challenge as that faced by the electorate in Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Madhya Pradesh — malfunctioning electronic voting machines (EVM), including the BU, CU and the VVPAT.
Many voters who turned up at 7 am to cast their vote were disappointed to have to wait despite being in the queue for hours. A majority of reports of malfunctioning EVMs came from Malakpet, Ibrahimpatnam, Vikarabad, Suryapet, Khairatabad, Gajwel, Nizamabad, Jagtial and Uppal, among 20 constituencies where voting was obstructed and polling hours were lost.
While the Election Commission of India, during every poll exhorts senior citizens, the differently-abled and the youths to exercise their right to vote, it has failed to check the repetitive malfunctioning of EVM units election-after-election in the past two decades. At several polling booths in Telangana, voters who had arrived early, particularly the senior citizens, were seen returning home without casting their votes.
"The delay in commencing polling is causing lot of inconvenience for diabetics who come here without having breakfast. We can understand if one or two EVMs are dysfunctional, but how can it be tolerated if many EVMs at the same polling station stop functioning?" asks a woman voter in Hyderabad constituency who wanted to cast her vote in the first hour of polling.
Reports of malfunctioning EVMs even came from polling booths in the urban areas of Hyderabad, Secunderabad and other cities in the state.
Polling could not commence even after an hour of the scheduled time at Chanded polling booth in Vikarabad as there was no light inside the booth in the absence of electricity.
"The election officials should have inspected the facilities available at these polling booths. The malfunctioning of the EVMs causes a lowered percentage of voting. The election officials blame the voters for not exercising their right to vote, but they are not creating a conducive atmosphere at the polling stations," a voter, who came to Chanded polling booth in Vikarabad.
Expressing a similar opinion, Telugu film actor Posani Krishna Murali, who exercised his franchise at Musarambagh polling booth in Hyderabad, complained about the lighting inside the polling booth. "There is a chance of voters pressing wrong buttons on the EVM while casting their votes due to the lack of proper lighting," Posani says.
Voters at one of the polling booths in Kamareddy constituency also complained about the absence of basic amenities at the polling booth, such as drinking water. Women who arrived at 6 am in the morning were angry as they were made to wait for more than two hours. Making it clear that they could not go on waiting for the polling staff to set right the defunct EVMs, the women voters, in a chorus, said, "We have other work to do at home. We have to cook food for our children and fetch drinking water. We came here at 6 am and expected to go home by 7.30 am, but we haven't voted yet even though it's past 8 am."
As polling did not start even until 8 am, an hour after the scheduled time of 7 am, around 300 voters waiting at Kamareddy polling booth became restive and had to be pacified by the police to maintain the queue.
The two top EC officials in the state, however, have different perspectives about the problems caused by EVMs to voters and the polling process.
Joint Chief Electoral Officer, Telangana, Amrapali Kata, was not ready to believe that voters had returned without voting. "Voters are waiting in queue to exercise their votes. I can show you hundreds of photos where voters are standing in the queue. There is no problem, go ahead and vote," he retorted when questioned about the loss of votes due to malfunctioning EVMs. Amrapali also made it clear that there is no plan to extend polling time due to the alleged malfunctioning of the EVMs.
Chief Electoral Officer, Telangana, Rajat Kumar, however, said the election officials had expected malfunctioning of the EVMs. "We have directed the election officials to conduct mock polling from 6 to 7 am. Similar problems arose in the Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh Assembly elections. When compared with the malfunctioning of EVMs in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, the rate of EVM failure in Telangana is comparatively lower. There are 238 engineers from Bharat Electronics Limited and also master trainers to fix these problems. As of now, there is no problem with the EVMs," he said.
With inputs from Mahesh Bacham
Authors are freelance writers and members of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters
Updated Date: Dec 07, 2018 13:46 PM