Wednesday, November 20, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

There are no under 18 here!
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 19
Going by the voters’ list for the municipal elections, it seems there is no voter under 18 years in Jalalabad, which falls in Ferozepore district.

As per the Census-2001, Jalalabad has a population of 32,500. The number of voters at present is 29,081.

The preparation of the voters’ list has charged the atmosphere in Jalalabad town, which has 15 wards, because of alleged interference of a ruling Congress MLA and the registration of “bogus voters”. There are allegations that mostly village panchayat voters’ names have been lifted en block for MC voters’ list.

Though the printing of the final list of voters was to be completed by November 12, the state Election Commission revised the programme. As per the revised schedule, the final publication of the voters’ list is November 29 whereas the disposal of claims and objections is to be completed by November 22.

In fact, 6,585 claims and objections were submitted in respect of 15 wards as on October 25. Again 663 claims and 644 objections were filed afresh. The verification of these remains incomplete, say Municipal Councillors. As per their assertion, if 2125 claims of voters are accepted, the total number of voters would be 29,081 (existing votes +2125) which means that 89 per cent of the towns population has the right to vote in the forthcoming elections.

As per the Census-2001, the number of those below six years was 4,100 and one can easily presume how many would be less than 18 years.

The Municipal Council President, Mr Prem Kumar Valecha, has been persistently writing to the state Election Commission against the rampant irregularities in preparation of the list of voters. He has been demanding verification, supervision and inspection of voters already listed by independent officers. The state Election Commissioner, Mr C.L. Bains, took cognizance of the complaints and wrote on November 6 to the District Electoral Officer-cum-Deputy Commissioner, Ferozepore, ordering that “staff from Fazilka and Abohar be deputed for verification purposes as the allegations are too serious”. He has also had telephonic talks with the Deputy Commissioner.

Mr Valecha in his latest communication on November 13 to the commission has given ward-wise details comparing the number of voters in 1998 and those in the present electoral rolls (2002-03). A close study shows that 89 per cent of the population in Jalalabad is in the voters’ list.

It is alleged that all irregularities are being committed at the behest of the ruling Congress MLA and the district administration is dancing to his tunes. It is reported that on-the-spot verification was not done and duplicate copies of Form 5 (application for inclusion of name in the voters’ list) were tampered with. All 14 BJP councillors have even collectively lodged their protest and complaints against excesses being committed by the ruling Congress in the preparation of the voters’ list.

“Despite the strict instructions from Mr Bains, the field staff are still acting as per the diktats of the ruling party MLA”, alleged Mr Valecha, who says: “It is for the first time that the commission’s directives are being ignored by the district administration”.

Incidentally, the BJP has been controlling the Municipal Council, Jalalabad, since 1962. Mr Bains was not at home when TNS tried to contact him.


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