11 am: St Anthony’s High School in Vakola is in a flurry of activity since early morning. A space that was deserted not two days ago is bustling with people with a common purpose to vote. The campus is not yet crowded and everything seems to be going on systematically. The officials had reached the venue as early as 5 am and started a ‘mock voting’ to check the EVMs and at sharp 7 am voting began.
Approximately, 1,000 people voted until 10:30 am today at this venue. Sheetal, a policewoman on the venue said expressed that they have been here since 7 pm last night and some have slept in the police station itself in order to be here on time.
Outside the campus gates, two teenagers along with their mother, riding motorcycles without helmet or license, have been caught by two policewomen on duty who said they should have been extra careful around this area since it’s a ‘sensitive’ one.
A couple named Michael and Anesthina, who have been voting at this center for years now, say, “The school has made an extra effort and put up booths on the campus to avoid crowding, but unfortunately we’ve had unseasonal showers and the mess is getting in the way.”
While everyone seems to be carrying out their responsibility to vote without any hindrance, one elderly woman complained that she is not being able to vote. “I first got a ‘parchi’ that I was registered, but that didn’t work so I went home and got my voter’s card and ration card but they are also not enough, I am told.”
However, zonal officer Baraskar clarified that before every election, the Election Commission of India puts up lists of voter registrations and their specific polling stations online. People are expected to check that and come to vote accordingly. Failure to check can lead to confusion and loss of the opportunity to exercise one’s right to franchise, he said.
The Vakola municipal school, Sankul, has 14 spacious, well-lit and clean classroom turned into polling booths where close to 2,000 voters have voted till 11am. The friendly policemen who have been on duty since 6am yesterday, are handling the small crowd on the campus efficiently with one policeman solely dedicated to stop people from taking their phones inside the building. Staff of the school have been here also since 6 am today and one of them says that he can only go to vote when his duty ends for the day. There are also wheelchairs with handlers available at this campus for the elderly and differently-abled. “I have been voting here since years and haven’t had any trouble, there has never been a bad crowd and everything goes smoothly”, said senior citizen Aruna Ahuja. She is also happy with the technology used n voting.
Particularly heartwarming is the story of Dhanraj Vitthalrao Dhole who was present this morning. At 59, he is a first-time voter, accompanied by his brother Harishchandra.
Dhanraj hasn’t been able to vote, because as a differently-abled person, Hairshchandra was unable to bring him to the polling station. “Facilities were not good and I was not sure I would get help. So he missed many chances to cast his vote. This year, noticing that infrastructure and facilities were much better, I decided to bring him.”
And so, with the help of a wheelchair and assistance from officials and workers, Dhanraj will, at last, be able to cast his vote comfortably.
Surely, he and particularly his brother would be a source of inspiration to the younger generation who tend to take such things for granted.
Written by Journalism students Nitya Narasimhan and Ananya Endow
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