Ban on Mobile Phones at Polling Booths Hits Voter Turnout

Hyderabad: Just 48.7 per cent of voters cast their votes in the Greater Hyderabad region, according to data released by the Election Commission of India. While officials said they will look into the reasons that contributed voter apathy in urban areas, one issue appears to have contributed clearly — the ban on carrying mobile phones to the polling station.

According to several reports from across localities, many people had come to the polling station carrying the soft copy of identity cards stored in their mobiles. When police refused to allow them to carry mobile phones and having no facility to print their cards nearby, they dropped their plan and left the place.

Some people who carried physical copies of identity cards were found struggling to find a facility to safe-deposit their mobile phones when they entered the polling station. When they found no such facility, they left the polling station and did not come back again to vote.

Though voters argued with police personnel, they did not relent and insisted on following the Election Commission’s order to the letter.

Veena, who carried her mobile phone to cast her vote for the Goshamahal candidate, was surprised when the mobile phone was not allowed. However, her co-voter, who was facing the same situation, helped her by allowing her to park her phone with her car driver.

“People were shocked to know that mobiles are not allowed inside the polling booth. In present times, most people use smartphones for almost everything. So when police did not allow voters to take mobile phones inside, people were disappointed and returned back without voting,” said Bhagat Singh Khalifa, a resident of Mangalhat.

According to Arvin Thakur Singh, who is one of the polling agents: “Many people failed to carry physical identification cards, which forced them to return back home.”

Usha Turaga Revelli, a radio journalist, said: “The mobile ban was enforced suddenly. It was advertised and information was available to everyone. So it’s a flimsy excuse for not voting. This shows that people don’t have respect for democracy.”

“These are the same people who when given a chance in social media, have all the informed opinions, and post their ideas, get into arguments, but still they don’t want to spend an hour standing in queue on a holiday, which was given to exercise their vote,” she added.

According to Lasya Nadimpally, marketing manager at a corporate company, “An urban voter uses a holiday that comes before the weekend for planning a long weekend vacation. The urban voter is habituated to the convenient lifestyles, where they get all things at a click of a button. There were so many campaigns asking citizens to come and vote, yet people refused to move out of their comfort zones.”

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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