Even as the Election Commission has moved ahead to conduct assembly elections in Bihar with the Supreme Court rejecting the petition seeking deferment of the polls on the grounds of “Covids-19 and floods”, the common voters are not enthusiastic to join the poll process.
What has kept them in low spirits are the month-long floods leaving them homeless and the surging Covid-19 cases proving deadlier to them. Their own struggle for survival has, thus, very obviously ended their interest in the poll process. The assembly elections in the state are scheduled for October/November this year.
The common worry among the voters right now is that who will take care of them when they get infected with the virus while joining the poll process. Even though the state government is slowly ending restrictions and allowing plying of buses and reopening of shopping malls and business establishments, the panicky masses are just not ready to come out of their homes.
“It’s a trick to make us believe that we have nothing to worry about from Corona and so we should fearlessly walk up to the polling stations and cast the votes but are we idiots? Who will take care of us and our family if they get infected with the virus where all beds in government hospitals are going full while we don’t have the capability to get admitted to the private hospitals since they are charging too much,” asked SK Sharma, a Patna businessman who repairs cooking gas stoves and other utensils.
He wondered how the Election Commission is trying to conduct elections at the time of pandemic when the people’s lives are in danger.
Another person Pankaj Srivastava, a resident of Purnia, said nothing could be more important than saving a person’s life. “It was this reason which prompted the Prime Minister to enforce nation-wide lockdown and suspend plying of buses, trains and flights. Bihar is still under lockdown till 6 September which means Corona situation is still serious. We fail to understand why the poll panel wants us to reach the police stations and cast votes at this critical time? Are elections more important than people’s lives?” asked Srivastava.
“What is more sickening, the Election Commission in its guideline has also allowed the Corona patients to cast their votes at the last hour. That means the Corona patients will be mixing with the general voters which will obviously leave their lives in danger,” he asked.
The intensity of the Covid-19 in the state is underlined from the fact that it has claimed 688 lives and infected more than 1.35 lakh people so far. What is alarming is that of the total deaths reported in the past five months, 376 alone have been reported only this month. Similarly, of the total cases of Corona infection, 80,505 have been reported in the past 30 days, indicating the gravity of the situation.
The villagers are also shocked at the way “floods” are being described as no ground for postponing elections while the situation on the ground remains very horrible. The very own report of the Disaster Management Department, Government of Bihar, states that floods have affected 83.62 lakh population settled in 1,333 panchayats across 16 districts out of Bihar’s total 38.
That means half of the state has been seriously battling flood situations with the displaced villagers somehow living along the river embankments, railway lines, roads or other higher places but the authorities want them to rush to the polling booths without waiting for the time to get the situation become normal.
“It is a matter of common sense—whether we should search for food to stay alive or the Voter I-Cards in our flooded homes?” asks Rajendra Ram of Barauli in Gopalganj district. Angry flood victims have been blocking roads, shouting slogans and assaulting the officials over lack of relief. At presently, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur, east Champaran, Saran and Gopalganj are in the grip of severe floods.