Thousands denied right to vote, rain fails to dampen spirit 
Sanjay Bumbroo and P.K. Jaiswar

Women were not far behind their male counterparts in casting their votes. Despite the rain, the chill and soggy ground conditions they came to the polling booths in large numbers
Women were not far behind their male counterparts in casting their votes. Despite the rain, the chill and soggy ground conditions they came to the polling booths in large numbers. — Photo by AFP

As many as 3400 voters of Ram Nagar colony (ward number 30), Guru Nanak Pura in the Islamabad area in the Amritsar (West) constituency were denied their right to vote. Reason: their names did not figure in the voters list.

The residents alleged that the Councilor, Mr Pramod Kumar Babla, had assured them that their names figured in the list. However, they alleged they were shocked to learn at the time of voting that their names had been deleted from the voters list. They said their names were deliberately deleted from the list to favor a candidate. The residents blocked the road and hampered traffic and polling.

Mr Shiv Kumar, 35, said that as the ruling party candidate learnt that they were going to oppose him, the councilor got their names deleted from the voters list. He said the Election Commission should take note of this and cancel the elections in their ward and get the new voters list prepared so that they could make their choice.

In another similar case, about 120 residents of Gali Khilonewali (ward number 28), near Gate Khazana were also dumbfounded to note that their names did not exist in the voters’ list though they had voter identity cards. They said that their names were deliberately deleted as they had decided to support an Independent candidate. They even threatened to boycott the municipal committee elections.

Barring two or three incidents, the election was by and large peaceful in 10 of the 11 constituencies of the border district while the election for the Beas constituency was postponed due to violent incidents on January 29. Earlier, it was assumed that the Beas incident would cast its shadow on the elections scenario in Punjab ,especially in Amritsar district. Keeping this in view, the Election Commission had strictly instructed security forces that the voter of one constituency should not enter the other ,but one could see people coming in and out of the constituencies. The paramilitary forces deployed on the gates of the booths did not allow the residents to enter the polling stations without voter identity cards or other identification documents.

Meanwhile, the inclement weather did not deter the voters of the Holy City. They came out in large numbers to cast their votes. During the very first hour, only 10-15 votes in each booth were cast. As rain stopped, people made a beeline to the booths. They could be seen rushing towards the polling stations under the cover of their umbrellas.

They crossed muddy and kutcha roads in villages to reach the polling booths. When the Amritsar Plus team asked them who will they vote for, they pointed to the bad road and said, “You can judge for yourself. ”

Of the 10 constituencies, a few skirmishes were reported in three constituencies, including Majitha, Amritsar (South) and Amritsar (Central). In the Majitha constituency the Congress candidate, Mr Surinder Singla, allegedly slapped an assistant presiding officer of a polling station as the officer was guiding an old woman on how to use the voting machine. The incident resulted in the registration of a case against Mr Singla. However, Mr Singla said the officer was helping his adversary by casting fake votes.

In the Amritsar (Central) constituency, a scuffle was reported between the supporters of Arun Mehra Pappal, an Independent candidate and Prof Darbari Lal, Congress candidate at DAV College for Women, Beri Gate. The police rushed to the site and arrested polling agents. Ms Lakshmi Kanta Chawla, state BJP vice president and a candidate from the constituency, alleged that the police had picked up two polling agents of her party. Hundreds of BJP workers gathered at the spot and raised slogans against the police and Prof Darbari Lal. Later ,the police diffused the situation by assuring the BJP candidate that the two would be released.

In the Amritsar (North) constituency, supporters of an Independent candidate allegedly manhandled Mr Jugal Kishore Sharma, a Congress candidate and Chairman, Amritsar Improvement Trust. Mr Sharma was trying to win over the supporters of the Independent candidate. However, Mr Sharma alleged that he was thrashed by the supporters of Independent when he asked them to show their identity. He said the supporters allegedly thrashed him causing him injuries.

Despite the blanket ban by the Election Commission to ferry voters by the workers of the candidates to the polling stations from their houses, the people could be seen alighting from the vehicles of candidates at polling booths. 



My City
Need to revive zebra-crossings to ensure safety
Prof Mohan Singh

My city is the habitat of more than 15 million people living around the abode of God (Harmandir Sahib). The holy precincts are the neatest place on earth and truly emanate divine ambience. However, on stepping out of the sacred square around the holy pond no one fails to notice the sharp contrast in the town.

Sanitation staff picking up and carting garbage on open and often leaking tractor-trolleys is not the best way to clean the city, but one wonders why it is done during the day time and during the peak business hours.

Thanks to the personal initiatives of Dr Manmohan Singh, my city is now on the agenda of the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission.

One can, therefore, reasonably hope that the scenario will change for the better in the next few years. But the worst aspect of Amritsar is the ubiquitous encroachments on roads and public parks.

With a little enforcement of traffic rules, the safety of life cannot be ensured. There was a time when double riding on even a bicycle used to invite a challan ticket. The policeman (there was no separate traffic wing) was a terror to violators of the law. And now overtakers being overtaken are a common sight. Motorcyclists flaunt illegal horns and weird shapes and sizes of letters on their registration number plates with impunity. No one is ever punished for over speeding or crossing the red light.

I remember my city used to have some well maintained zebra-crossings. Now, you don’t see any and is it safe to try to cross the Queen’s Road? Not at all. The road in spite being one of the widest in the city is not wholly available for the traffic, thanks to unregulated parking.

A supervised crossing, if not an overbridge, in front of Alexandra School may solve the problem. Roads are the arteries of a town but these clogged channels offset the whole system. I think if the police is empowered to tackle the problem, they can bring about the much needed improvement. Right now they only ‘stand and stare’ helplessly, at motivated traffic jams which inconvenience only the general public and schoolchildren.

The benefits of the renewal mission will take a while to accrue but smooth traffic and safety of the pedestrians need immediate attention.



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