Technology triumphs over violence

EC PUTS TO USE VOTER VERIFIABLE PAPER AUDIT TRAIL MACHINES IN JADAVPUR

By bappaditya paul

Violence today trailed behind a new technological innovation that the Election Commission (EC) pressed into service in Jadavpur Lok Sabha seat with Bhangor of the Arabul fame being the only major exception.

Injured CPI-M activist Feroz Mollah at Bhangor.
Injured CPI-M activist Feroz Mollah at Bhangor.

The EC put to use in Jadavpur, the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines, which give confirmation to an elector that his/her vote has gone to the candidate s/he actually voted for. Jadavpur is one of the seven constituencies in the country and the only one in West Bengal that got a hands-on experience on this new technological leap.

But the exuberance over VVPAT got overcast by a number of violent incidents in Bhangor, which these days is known more for the Trinamul Congress strongman Arabul Islam than the excellent quality prawns that it cultures. Bhangor is one of the seven Assembly segments that come under Jadavpur LS seat.

At least 10 persons ~ six from CPI-M and four from Trinamul ~ were injured in poll violence that took place in several parts of Bhangor during the day.

The first strike came at Chakmaricha village at 6.30 in the morning when Saifuddin Mollah (35), a CPI-M agent for Poll Booth No 155 in Bhangor, was attacked on his way to the booth allegedly by Trinamul cadres. Severely bleeding from the head, Mollah reached the booth from where officials rushed him to hospital; his father, Gafur Ali Mollah, replaced him as the CPI-M agent.

A VVPAT machine attached to an EVM at a polling booth in Jadavpur LS constituency.
A VVPAT machine attached to an EVM at a polling booth in Jadavpur LS constituency.

The next incident occurred at Poll Booth No 117 and 118 at Kathzala and Maniktala villages in Bhangor, when CPI-M agents and supporters were attacked with bricks and sticks, allegedly by Trinamul workers, for opposing false voting. Two CPI-M agents and three supporters were injured in the head and limbs making the party take them to the Kashipur police station demanding action.

Trinamul leader Arabul Islam contradicted this saying that it was the CPI-M that attacked their agent and supporters near the booths, injuring three. “The polling is extremely peaceful in entire Bhangor but the CPI-M will still cry foul. I have roved through areas like Polerhat I & II, Beota, Bamanghata, Chaltaberia and Sonpukur; there have been no violence. We will get a very good lead in Bhangor,” Mr Islam told a group of journalists in front of Kashipur police station.

Arabul Islam
Arabul Islam

Several voters, owing allegiance to the CPI-M, at Majerhat and Saihati villages in Bhangor-II block said that they stayed away from polling booths today as Trinamul workers visited their homes last night and asked them not to vote.

The voters in Baruipur East, Sonarpur South and Sonarpur North were however well off and were excited having a hands-on experience on VVPAT. “This is a very good step as we got a confirmation that our votes went the candidate we voted for. This technology should be emulated across India in all future elections,” said Mrs Sima Adhikary and her husband Mr Swapan Adhikary who voted at Booth No 17 at Naridanga JB School in Baruipur East.

Sujan Chakraborty
Sujan Chakraborty

CPI-M Jadavpur candidate Sujan Chakraborty said, barring Bhangor, the polling in his seat today was by and large peaceful. “The EC did not play an effective role in Bhangor but we are satisfied with the arrangements elsewhere.” At 6 p.m., the poll percentage in Jadavpur stood at 79.63 per cent as against 81.46 per cent in 2009.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 13 May 2014)

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