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Voter Harassment Centres

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I am really disgusted with the month-long running around I have had to do. You are almost tempted to exclaim, as one 70-year-old gentleman in front of us did, "If this is what I have to undergo to register...and then vote for some rowdy-sheeter who is standing for election to make money, why should I bother? "...and go home.....

Reproduced in Italics below are the official lines posted in a Yahoogroup by a well-meaning enthusiast (+ his tips, within brackets), and the responses by a thoroghly disillusioned lady (DM) who had tried out the exercise herself:

The 15th Lok Sabha election is round the corner and it is our duty to go out and vote. The polling will be held on April 23rd in Bangalore. If you have not registered to vote yet, please do so now.

Response:
I totally agree with this. I had an Election Commissioner Voter ID card from 1992. I could not find the card no. on the Net, nor on physical lists anywhere. And, I got into major hassles with the  the BBMP office near my home (JP Nagar 3rd Phase) claiming that unless I got the old ID deleted I could not register, and the BBMP office  at Jayanagar Complex claiming that they could not delete it as it was not found. I visited both offices thrice.

So, today, I finally just took a fresh Form 6 and registered as if I was doing it for the first time. I visited both offices for the fourth time, spending liberal amounts of time at both places

Some information related to voter registration:

1) You need to register in the constituency where you want to vote. Your constituency will be determined based on the address of your residence. For example, if you live in Bangalore but you have your name registered in some other city, then you can not vote in Bangalore. You need to remove your name from your old constituency and enroll your name in the current constituency by submitting Form 6. You can do both at the same time by submitting one form only.

R: As I pointed out above, this can lead to a LOT of hassle. I have been shuttling between the JP Nagar 1st phase BBMP office and the Jayanagar Complex office for two weeks+ now.

And, the two offices have different timings...the Jayanagar office is shut between 12 noon and 4pm. At the JP Nagar office, they are supposed to open the office at 3.30pm, but the clerks saunter in at nearly 4pm. At the Jayangar office, too, there is a LOT of harassment. At the Jayangar office today we were asked to "furnish proof" that we have never voted before. I challenge anyone to produce such proof of NOT voting!

2) The Chief Electoral Office of Karnataka (http://ceokarnataka.kar.nic.in/indexw.asp) has opened Voters’ Facilitation Centre (VFCs) in urban constituencies where you can go and register you name by submitting Form 6, an address proof and an age proof. Your name will be enrolled within 10 days.

R: NO. Today, we finally submitted our forms on the second visit to the Jayanagar office, with serpentine queues that took us an hour and a half to go down. They have asked us to come physically AFTER 20 DAYS and check IF our names have been enrolled, and then go back to have our photos taken. We cannot phone. We have to go and and "yes, you will have to stand in the queue."

3) You need to go to the VFC corresponding to your assembly constituency. Other people can also submit the form on your behalf.

R: NO. We were told today that each of us had to bring our own forms. And indeed our forms were individually scrutinized. So please DO go yourself.

You can find the address of the VFCs in http://ceokarnataka.kar.nic.in/VFC.pdf.   
a) The VFCs are open on all days (including weekends) from morning 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, and 4 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. till March 31st. So, you should hurry and register your name.

R: The opening  timings...are somewhat stretchable. And no matter if you have joined that queue at 7pm, at 8pm sharp, the counter closes. I call them VHC's...Voter Harassment Centres.

b) You can find out your assembly constituency from your neighbors or family members who are already registered. Otherwise, you can find it out from the following website http://www.jaagore.com/faq.html.

R: I tried to use the jaagore online registration form. It does NOT work and I wasted an hour in trying to enter my Assembly Constituency number. Please don't waste your time on this. Go to http://ceokarnataka.kar.nic.in/indexw.asp to find this information.

4) Your can use passport, driving license, phone bill (BSNL), electricity bill, ration card, lease agreement etc. for address proof. If you do not have any proof of address in your name. You can submit the address proof of other person who is staying with you and you also need to submit a letter from him/ her stating that you stay with him/ her at that address. If the people at VFC does not want to consider other person’s address proof to enroll your name – you can contact the Chief Electoral Office – phone nos. are 22864401, 22868768, 22860812, 22863873, 22863580. (It is not necessary to have an address proof in your name to register for voting).

R: NO. PLEASE TAKE AN ADDRESS PROOF IN YOUR NAME in the form of any of the above documents. You don't want the man at the entrance, who vets your forms and harasses you (he harassed us) to turn down your application on this count. It seems to be their job, not to make it a Voter Facilitation Centre, but a Voter Harassment Centre. Several people were turned away from the one-and-a-half- hour queue because of small mistakes.  One man was asked to join that queue to find out if his area (J P Nagar 7th Phase) was being handled by that office. When he came to the head of the queue, he was told that his area was not being handled there. He was justifiably angry, and the entrance guy and he had a war of words, delaying the rest of us considerably.

5) I think you can also enroll your name online through jaagore.com – www.jaagore.com. I haven’t used that myself though. This is an initiative taken by Janaagraha to register people for voting. The FAQ in their website http://www.jaagore.com/faq.html is quite useful.

R: The jaagore online registration does not work. Maybe the FAQ site is useful. I feel bad about the fact that just because it's supposed to be a "free" website, it doesn't work at all. Free or not...if there is an online registration process...it ought to work. Three of my neighbours also tried this...same result.

6) If you have already registered but do not have the voters’ photo identity card – i.e., EPIC (Elector’s Photo Identity Card) you can get one from your local Electoral Registration Office (ERO). You can check the schedule of getting EPIC from  http://bangalorevoterid.org/. It just takes 5 min to get the EPIC.

R: Yes...actually, about thirty  minutes for the whole process ...IF your name is on the list. Otherwise, like me, you will run into problems. I tried contacting several of the  telephone numbers given on the govt website. No one picked up on even one number.

7) If you are not sure whether your name is there in the electoral roll or not – you can go to the office of the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) or office of the Assistant Electoral Registration Officer of your constituency. The addresses of those offices are in http://ceokarnataka.kar.nic.in/2_Ero_Bangalore_Central.pdf.

R: This part is correct. But getting hold of that list is a scrimmage.

8) You can also check your name in the voters list online at http://bangalorevoterid.org/search.html.  (I have found that online search is not very accurate).

R: True. Physical verification is the way to go.

The steps to register your name in the voters’ list

1) Find your assembly constituency - See 3.b above

2) Fill up form 6.

3) Get an address proof and an age proof.
(Your driving licence or passport might have both together).

R: My recommendation: 3a. Make at least two xerox copies of each. The guy-at-the-entrance suddenly demands xerox copies of any or all of these documents.

4) Submit form 6 and the proofs in the VFC corresponding to your assembly constituency.

R: My tip: Budget 2 or 3 hours in the serpentine queues. We were standing either in the hot sun (J P Nagar BBMP Office) or in an airless corridor (Jayangar Complex BBMP Office.)  Take a bottle of water along, at least, and some reading matter, and be prepared to stand for a long time.

Or, Check http://www.jaagore.com for online registration. There also you need to mail your filled in form, address proof and age proof to them.

R: My recommendation: Don't waste your time on jaagore. It doesn't work. I wasted a lot of time trying.

If you are not registered to vote, please do so this weekend.

R: The 25th is the last date in most BBMP offices. The offices have different timings for working. The Jayanagar Complex BBMP office is closed on Mondays, and from 12 noon to 4pm.

The JP Nagar BBMP office is closed on Sundays, and from 1.30pm to 3.30 (actually, 4) pm. So check on when the office YOU need to go to is open. Go early.

The BBMP offices will NOT take anyone else's form at any office.

And, since you are approaching the last dates, be prepared for very long queues. You are almost tempted to exclaim, as one 70-year-old gentleman in front of us did, "If this is what I have to undergo to register...and then vote for some rowdy-sheeter who is standing for election to make money, why should I bother? "...and go home.....

The process of registering has NOT been an easy one for me, but I must say that at no point was I approached by any touts for "help" or asked for any "contribution". But the attitude of making people wait interminably (the J P Nagar office has just one clerk going slowly through each application, and working by the light of one candle during the power cut), and adopting a high-handed attittude by them continues.

I had a young mother with a small child in front of me. She was in a frazzled state by the time she could finish...no one in the line ahead of her would yield his/her place and I can quite understand that, given the length of time they had to spend in that queue. Elderly people found it very difficult, too. There is no separate provision for senior citizens or people with small children.

There is no one to give proper information about what documents are needed, no enquiry counter. One is supposed to garner all the correct info and join the correct queue with the correctly filled up forms.

Our babus refuse to realize that the days of the British Raj, or the Babu Raj, are over.

Forgive me...I am really disgusted with the month-long running around I have had to do. I too have started wondering whether I need to waste all this time to vote. But let me see if I am, finally, allowed to do so at all....

No cheers, DM


 

Comments

Mani1972's picture

EPIC..!

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Dear Murali and friends,

I can understand the agony of the common man in getting a correct EPIC. In Mysore also we have 4 VFCs. After going thru' the details of the centers in Bangalore, i think Mysore centers and faring better.

In a democracy, there is an inherent limit for regulating anything, and thus an element of discretion at every level. This discretion can work either way. If the officer is good, then it becomes positive discretion, and if the officer is bad it becomes negative.  Thus, human factor matters substantially in governance. The VFCs are functioning better in Mysore coz of the good officers from the MYsore City Corporation, who man it, and work behind it. We also had the benefit of direct advice from the office of the CEO, Shri. Manoj Arya.

The VFC should have counters for inquiry, separate Qs and should not make citizens to wait for more than 30 mins. This is our deliverable. By and large we are able to meet that. In Mysore, thanks to the initiate by an able officer, Ms. Bharathi, we have mobile EPIC vans, which move around as per schedule and ensure EPIC at door steps.

What are the causes for problems at VFCs?

1. Apathy of the citizens. Had there been a critical mass of citizens to make it an issue, visible to the media, it would have made the decision makers to consider this as a top most priority and actions would have been taken.

2. The govt staff lack motivation. (no incentives for good work, except climbing the maslow's pyramid!) So most of the time, we have to get the work done, regrettably, thru' the 'stick'. For that there needs to be clear complaints from citizens. Who have time for that?

3. The systemic problem. There is multiplicity of vendors. The software is by CMC. It is handled by another agency called 'komat' and printing of rolls is by third agency. Co-ordination by the govt staff. Need i say more?!

But, one has to appreciate the initiative by the CEO office, karnataka. This is a welcome beginning, compared to the earlier days, when the citizens have to search where to go, and almost thrown out from every place, not even allowed to stand in the office. At least now, they have a place to stand and ask questions rightfully. Something is happening. It is hoped that soon this VFCs will improve in both quantity and quality and work to the expectations of the public.

Thanks and regards,

Manivannan
Mysore.

Manivannan

Naveen's picture

Mr.Manivannan - Many thanks

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Mr.Manivannan,

Greatly appreciate your elaborate posts - all well noted. It is true that most of us complain but do not do much beyond that, due to various reasons - other tasks & routines, etc.

I had a very pleasant experience at the VFC in Vibhutipura. Our (me & wife) EPIC cards had a few small spelling errors, which we wanted to correct - our names had also been missing on the list the last time we had voted in the state assembly polls.

I finished my work in about 20 minutes flat & received the cards, laminated fresh !  The same day, there had been about 10 others at the same time & everybody's case had been processed similar to ours. In spite of this, there were a few who criticized the BBMP centre, calling it "typical govt office", etc. since they had to wait some time, despite the visual evidence of work being processed in front of them.

We are an impatient people & perhaps this is another reason that explains how things are !

Arun's picture

Working well in Mysore

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The process is working really well in Mysore.  At one of the centres in Mysore, it took me hardly few minutes to get a new card; much less than the 20-30 minutes time frame I had in mind.  
 
The mobile VFC initiative is commendable. Now it is for the citizens to make use of this facility and ultimately VOTE!
roshanrk's picture

 I think you were just

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 I think you were just unlucky. I've been to the VFC at Byatyarayanapura and they were pretty cordial and my form was accepted in a matter of minutes.

I think this is a great initiative by the CEO and we need to encourage them. They will learn from their mistakes this time and take corrective actions in the future.

As far as JaagoRe! is concerned, they do not do any kind of online registration. They help you with filling up the right form, figuring out which constituency you belong to using the GIS enabled map. Beyond that it's our responsibilty to take the form and submit it to the right person. It's worked great for me and a lot of people from my company and other institutions.

Thridly, if you face a bit too much harrassment, do not hesitate to escalate the issues. Ask the official for his name. Every VFC has a VFC head, first approah them and try to get a resolution. If that doesn't work, call the ERO and talk to him and tell him who is harrassing you. Next level is the DEO. All their Names and numbers are available on the CEO's website. Trust me, escalating things do work. Most of the officials know that the public will believe anything they say and wont take any issue to higher authorities. Hierarchy works like magic in government offices.

s_yajaman's picture

My time at the VFC was very smooth too

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My wife and I got our EPICs from the Austin Town VFC.  We also got minor spelling mistakes corrected.  it took about 15 mins for both of us.  People were polite.  Only thing is that they did not ask us any proof of ID.  I could have posed pretty much as anybody.  I guess such people won't take the trouble of finding a VFC to get EPICs.  they have other means :)

We took longer in finding the right place.  We first went to Nanjappa Circle.  They sent us to Mayo Hall.  They in turn sent us to Austin Town. 

Srivathsa

 

 

Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

lalit_praja's picture

VFC experience - Equally worse

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I tried registering my name for voter id and had an equally forgettable experience. Not sure if it was got to do with the last date and too much crowd.
 
My area came under Banashankari VFC; where I went on 24th Tuesday. First looking at the queue – it looked unbelievable- about 100 people standing in front in a very slowly moving queue. Given that I was very much determined to register- I stood in the queue. After about 45 minutes in queue- somebody told for submitting the form – can enter the room directly. This was a 5ft by 5 ft room and supposedly 2 queues- if was difficult to find which queue is what. Actually inside the room – it was a total mess – about 50 people in that room trying run over each other.
 
I finally could find which queue – I was supposed to go-> and after another half hour being squeezed in the jammed queue inside the room, I was able to submit the form.
 
The form submitting was very funny. I had done lots of research which document is needed etc- The person did not bother to check anything at all. Just gave me the receipt. I very much doubt if I will really have the voter registration done?
 
Not blaming anybody- but very sad state of affairs in these VFCs.
murali772's picture

height of unprofessionalism

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Once your name has appeared on the electoral list, getting the EPIC is not much of a problem. But, getting your name on the electoral list, in the first place, is the problem. And, once you get your name on the list, there's no guarantee it will remain there, like in the case of the lady based on whose experience I had started this blog. Also, check    http://praja.in/bangalore/blog/murali772/2008/05/04/subversion-democratic-process#comment-10929   and other postings on the blog.

Like Srivatsa has stated, while getting the EPIC card printed, the contractor who set up camp at our complex also helped in correcting the spelling and other errors. But, he does not have the authority to make the changes in the master list, and quite rightly too, and therefore, if you go onto the web-site the errors remain. So, much so, a lady neighbour, with an obviously female name, continues to be listed as a male, though the EPIC card is marked with an 'F'; my daughter is 9 years older than actual in the web listing; my name is spelt in four different ways in each of where it appears - in my individual capacity, in the capacity as the husband of my wife, and in the capacity as the father of my two children.

Actually, the authority of the contractor to make the corrections on the EPIC are very much questionable - they can very well be mis-used.    

As to 'jaagore'- I helped my daughter's classmate through the complete exercise of filling out the Form-6. She the took out a print and submitted it at the designated office alongwith the requisite annexures on 6th March. She has a receipt for it. All the same, even as of today, her name does not figure on the voters list, even with my trying out all kinds of spelling, M/F, combinations.

All in all, a most unprofessional job!

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao

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