To contact us CLICK HERE
View Kalimpong News at
Citizen reporters may send photographs related to news with proper information to

Monday, April 18, 2011

SMS & pony power for hills

SMS & pony power for hills
VIVEK CHHETRI, TT, Darjeeling, April 17: It’s technology and horsepower driven polls in Darjeeling this time.
Checking materials in Kalimpong
Live streaming of polling station activities and text messages with hourly updates to pony rides with EVMs are all part of the huge election paraphernalia.
For the first time in an election in Bengal, polling station activities (except the casting of votes) will be aired on a real-time basis.
“One can just log on to the West Bengal Election Commission website and see the activities taking place at 20 polling stations on a real-time basis. Since the broadband facilities are better in Siliguri, all these polling stations are the ones based there,” said Mohan Gandhi, the district election officer, who is also the district magistrate of Darjeeling.
 Polling officials in Kalimpong
Also, for the first time, mobile numbers of two polling officials from every booth have been kept on record at the constituency headquarters.
Polling party movement Photos: Mukesh
There are 1,425 booths in the six Assembly segments of the district. “Polling personnel have to send text messages announcing their safe arrival at the booths. They will also have to text once they start the mock poll in the morning and report on the percentage of votes cast every two hours,” said an official.
A mock poll is conducted before the real ballot is cast to ensure that the machines are working smoothly.
For shadow areas where mobile networks are weak, sector officers, who are in charge of about 10-15 polling booths, will have to send the messages. The entire exercise is aimed at ensuring faster communication and transparency.
However, technology alone seems insufficient to power the elections in the hills.
Polling officials in 16 centres across the Darjeeling hills (see chart) will have to walk for anything between 5km and 10km to reach their destinations after travelling for more than 80km in cars or buses. In the hills, a distance of 80km may means a six-hour ride. In the plains, it usually takes around one and a half hours.
Election duty vehicles in Kalimong, Photo: Samten kabo
“This is the reason why polling officials of these 16 places left a day before the others. These polling stations are called ‘P minus 2’, which means officials leave for these destinations two days before the polling day,” an official explained.
In fact, election officials for Srikhola trekked 7km uphill and used horses to carry the EVM to the highest booth in the state. “They have already reached the polling station,” said Gandhi.
The number of booths unapproachable by road should serve as food for thought for the contesting candidates. Most of the political parties had mentioned about the deplorable condition of roads in their manifestos.
Coming back to technology, election officials are still keeping their fingers crossed. “Some of the presiding and polling officers were not well versed in sending text messages. It seemed funny but that is the reality and we are keeping our fingers crossed,” said an official in Darjeeling.
Ballot info on fingertips
Late pick-up triggers thrash, road blockade

TT, Alipurduar, April 17: Two bus drivers were beaten up here today allegedly by officials on poll duty who were protesting the late arrival of vehicles that were to take them to their destinations.

Following the assault, drivers refused to operate buses and around 1,200 polling officials left Alipurduar four hours behind the schedule after one of the alleged attackers was arrested. The assault took place when the polling personnel were blocking road.
The polling officials had gathered at Alipurduar subdivisional office around 6am. They were to reach different booths in the Dabgram-Fulbari, Rajgunj and Jalpaiguri constituencies.
“Only three buses had come to pick up the 1,200 polling personnel. We did not find any official from the Election Commission to oversee the arrangements,” said an official.
The polling personnel became agitated and blocked the road in front of the subdivisional office with their luggage around 8.30am. When the buses started moving out of the SDO office premises with the officials, a scuffle ensured between the protesters and drivers. Two drivers were roughed up and one of them had his T-shirt torn.
It was the turn of the bus employees now to protest. They vowed not to run the vehicles until the attackers were arrested and brought down the polling officials from the buses. As the chaos continued at the SDO office, more and more buses arrived to ferry the polling officials.
Amal Kanti Roy, the returning officer as well as the SDO of Alipurduar, reached the spot and held talks with bus employees and owners. A large number of police personnel also arrived at the SDO office.
The bus staff iterated that they would not transport the polling personnel until and unless action was taken against the errant officials.
Asim Das, a clerk in PHE department who was accused of thrashing a driver, was arrested and the SDO assured the bus staff that action would be taken against the other accused.
The drivers relented and around 10.30am, the buses left for Jalpaiguri with the election officials.
“In the past 20 years, this is the first time that poll personnel had to wait for almost five hours to reach their destination. We will reach Jalpaiguri late and there will be delay in collecting polling material,” said a polling official before his departure for Jalpaiguri.
The SDO admitted that there was some delay in the buses reaching the SDO office. “The buses had to come from different places in the subdivision. But the polling officials should not have beaten up the drivers,” said Roy.

No comments:

Post a Comment