Kavita Suri

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Serious discrepancies in electoral rolls in J&K, Voters undergo 'sex change' in lists 

Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah is "65 years", his mother is "70-year old" 

The "newly updated" voters list of Burn Hall School falling under Munshi Bagh polling station in Srinagar city set up just few metres away from chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah's residence on Gupkar Road in Srinagar, mentions the age of senior Abdullah, son of late Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah as 65 years at the serial number 35.Interestingly, his mother Begum Akhbar Jehan, wife of late Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah is mentioned on serial number 37 as 70 years - just five years more than the age of her son. And its been almost two years that she has passed away........ 

Mr Kuldip Raj Gupta, state BJP vice president is enrolled in the voters list showing his age as 72. His mother Karam Devi,long dead, still exists in the electoral roll in Rajouri showing her age as 71...... 

Garu Ram, son of Thodu Ram in Hiranagar tehsil, situated right on the International Border has been named as Rano Devi,wife of  Sansar Chand........... 

But this is just a ‘tip of ice-berg’ and most of the updated voter lists claimed to be revised by the Election Commission are plagued with these types of discrepancies.The Election Commission claims having updated and computerized the electoral rolls which had been last revised  in 1988. The EC says it has resulted in 200,000 fresh entries in the rolls, which were drafted in Urdu with the help of the Uttar Pradesh Urdu Academy and the UP chief electoral officer. 

While most of the voters and political parties have been alleging discrepancies in the voters list, the Election Commission refused to concede. 

"Well, to what extent have you received such complaints?" asks Chief Electoral Officer ,J&K Mr Pramod Jain asked The Statesman ."Do you have  specific instances"? asks the defensive official.However, when supplied with instances, he just shrugs it off by coming out with a little answer: "These discrepancies are just one per cent of the total lists." 

While the "non-friendly" CEO who always chooses to remain away from the media, refuses to oblige with the details on the issue, his juniors however concede that many discrepancies exist in the list. 

Mr B.D.Sharma, Deputy Commissioner Kathua, who is also the District Election Officer told The Statesman that though the discrepancies exist in the voters list, they have trying to get these rectified till the last date. 

"We have also given instructions to our staff to modify these if there are some minor changes like if the name of the person in Hansraj but voters list has Hans Ram or the like, he can be allowed to vote,"said Sharma. 

Notwithstanding the fact that "computerized up-to-date electoral rolls ensuring free and fair polls" in Urdu have been kept ready, political parties are quite unhappy with the Election Commission for such howlers in the lists. 

Interestingly, many voters of the state have undergone sex change in these lists, male voters have been shown as females and vice-versa, living people have been shown as dead, while as the dead persons have become alive. Besides, the total number of voters has witnessed a steep decline than the number that was registered in previous lists.Insiders say that more than two lakh voters, long dead, still figure in the electoral rolls in various parts of the state. There is also total difference in the voter lists that are published in Devnagri and Urdu. It becomes evident after going through these lists that addresses of maximum voters are missing in Urdu electoral rolls. 

Another issue which has triggered a debate is among political parties is that these lists show a increase in the voters strength in some constituencies in the Jammu region.  

Forced by these howlers, the Union Minister of State for Defence, Prof Chaman Lal Gupta, has written to the Chief Electoral Officer expressing apprehensions over 38 to 40 per cent increase in voters strength in the past five years in more than 12 constituencies in the Jammu region whereas in other Assembly segments the increase was between two and three per cent besides asking him to look into the matter.    Even, Mr Kuldip Raj Gupta, state BJP vice president had recently told a local newspaper that the voters lists of  Darhal, Rajouri, Kalakot, Poonch, Gool, Gulabgarh, Haveli and Mendhar constituencies  show an increase of 37 to 40 per cent since the 1996 Assembly poll while the percentage of increase in other constituencies has not been more than two to five.  

Jammu voters strength has been increased by 28.56 per cent in the past five years. Against this, there has been an increase of 7.37 per cent in the Kashmir valley and 24.98 per cent in Ladakh region.People say this increase has not kept pace with the increase in the population in the three regions.  

The latest J&K Census figures show that Kashmir valley has registered a 73 per cent increase in its population between 1981 and 2001 census against 60 per cent in the Jammu region. The 2001 census shows that the population in the Kashmir valley increased by 10.50 lakh during the past 20 years and in the Jammu region by over 3.50 lakh. However, the voters strength in the Jammu region increased by over eight lakh against the rise of three per cent in the Kashmir valley.  

The political leaders have also been complaining that in some of the Valley constituencies, there is a sharp decline in the total number of voters if compared with the previous lists. For example, Chadoora constituency of Kashmir Valley has a total number of 46,106 as per the new list while in 1996, it was 54,926 . Similarly, in Sonawari constituency of Baramulla district, the number of voters in the recent voters list is 51,133 while in previous list, it is 52,824.Likewise, in Habbakadal constituency 58,363 voters figured in existing list while as the total number was 58,966 voters in previous list.  

Prof Bhim Singh, Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party president, who only had circulated a ‘up-to-date’ voter list among scribes here in which age differences of Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah and his late mother was shown just five years, says that  the elections should be postponed to rectify these loopholes in the rolls.  

"There is no fun holding elections before removing these discrepancies.On one hand both Centre and State Government assure free and fair elections in J&K while on the other hand even voter lists are not streamlined,he said adding that free and fair elections were not possible on the basis of present 'updated' rolls. 

Voters also express apprehension that several genuine electorates may be unable to exercise their right of franchise in coming elections. "I had applied to include my name in the fresh voter lists, but it has not been done till now and I am looking for my name,"said one Shah Hussain. 

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