Sunday, October 21, 2007

Nearly 2,000 riot victims may not vote in this year’s Gujarat polls

AHMEDABAD, OCTOBER 21: For the 2,000-odd post-Godhra riot victims living in Vatva and surrounding areas, the fear of not being able to use their right to vote this Assembly polls seems real. Their names do not figure in the final voters' list. This, despite a hectic government campaign to prepare photo ID cards on the spot and the residents themselves running from pillar to post for the same.

More than a dozen housing colonies near the canal passing through the area are inhabited by poor and middle-class families fall under Sarkhej and Daskroi Assembly constituencies. In order to get their photo ID cards, the residents had filled application forms for either correction or for fresh cards since March this year after they lost their old cards in the 2002 riots. Such colonies include Alif Nagar, Gausiya Park, Chishtiya Park, Bag-e-Kausar and Aziz Park among others. Yasmin Patel, who lost her voter-ID in the riots, said she and her neighbours were trying their best to get the photo ID cards before the elections. "We first went to the collector's office. From there we were directed to the Talati who told us that our names were not on the list," said Patel.

Patel said she and her neighbours even met the authorities at the Collector's office twice in the past one month, but nothing concrete happened. She said their group, guided by local outfit Navjivan Mahila Mandal, will meet the State Election Commission this week if things did not work for them at a ration card lok adalat slated for October 24. Patel alleged that local politicians were not taking enough interest in the case.

Hashmat Ali, coordinator of the mandal, said the residents in this area were either poor or belonged to lower middle class with no one to take up their case.

Returning Officer for Sarkhej Assembly constituency S L Galchar said he was not aware of any complaints, but assured he will find out about the matter. Assistant Returning Officer of Daskroi constituency, S K Patel, said there were complaints about missing names, but that was only of around 150 or so. The process of putting their names on the list is in progress, he added.

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