Elderly voters are all set to have postal ballots for the upcoming Assembly elections if they are willing to do so, thanks to the Covid-19 situation.
During their visit to the district recently, the deputy commissioner of the Election Commission of India, Sudip Jain, and other ECI officials, held discussions with the District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police of four districts- -Malda, Murshidabad, North Dinajpur and South Dinajpur.
However, district election officials said they have not received any written note on the postal ballots.
As per the district election cell record, there are 41162 voters in Malda as of 7 December, who are already aged 80-100 years, while there are 316 voters who are above 100. The elderly voters constitute almost 1.4 percent of the total voters in the district which is 2938208 so far.
Political party leaders of the district have welcomed the idea, though they expressed fear that such ballots may be misused.
According to records at the district election cell, the number of voters aged between 80 and 100, constituency wise, is 3212 in Habibpur, 3436 in Gazole, 3268 in Chanchal, 3249 in Harishchandrapur, 3407 in Malatipur, 5000 in Ratua, 3427 in Manikchak, 3192 in Maldaha, 4021 in English Bazaar, 2477 in Mothabari, 2740 in Sujapur and 3733 in Baishnabnagar. Further, there are 13, 44, 27, 33, 37, 67, 34, 11, 15, 10, 22 and 03 voters who are above the age of 100 in these constituencies, respectively.
“District election officials have already located these centenarians and scrutinized their testimonials to include them in the draft voters’ list,” a source said.
According to Mausam Noor, the district president of the Trinamul Congress, the idea seems to be very good. “However, the ECI must take steps to stop any kind of misuse of such ballots issued to these senior citizens,” she said.
The district secretary of the CPIM, Ambar Mitra, echoed Ms Noor’s views. “One should not forget the huge possibility of such ballots getting tampered by antisocial elements involved in the process. These voters could be threatened of dire consequences just to snatch away the ballots. The ECI must have a fool proof idea to secure the privacy and protection of the ballots first,” he said.
When asked, Gobinda Mandal, the district BJP head, recalled his past experience and said such ballots were used to facilitate the ruling party by force. “In this pandemic, it is wise not to let these senior citizens go out to cast their votes, but in the past we saw great misuse of these ballots. If the ECI can stop all those, the initiative is welcome,” he said.
Congress MLA from the Maldaha constituency, Bhupendranath Haldar, however, differed and said that the senior citizens could cast their votes at the booths. “In Malda, the Covid situation is not so bad at present, and to stop any tampering of the ballots, everyone should vote through EVMs in their respective booths,” he said.
The officer-in-charge of the district election cell, Liton Saha, said, “We don’t have any such written orders or guidelines from the ECI, so far regarding this matter.”