Cumbersome process main hindrance in casting votes

Simplification of procedure an alternative: KPs

Avtar Bhat
JAMMU, May 19: The cumbersome procedure of M Forms adopted by Election Commission of India (ECI) has barred a larger section of displaced Kashmiri Pandit community from participating in election process during last three decades of their exile which needs to be simplified to ensure their hundred percent participation in the democratic process is a general opinion of the exiled people.
The displaced people from the Valley are of the firm belief that in case the Government is interested in making the democratic process meaningful for them too and vote enmass they should abolish this procedure once and for all.
Though the Kashmiri Pandit organizations have been demanding right from 1996 when for the first time the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections were held in strife -torn State after terrorism gripped the Valley in 1989-90 that the process of M Forms be replaced by an easy procedure to ensure hundred percent participation of exiled Pandits in the elections, the successive Governments over the years have failed to pay any heed to their plea. This has deprived the displaced voters from casting their votes enmass in the elections and simplification of the procedure is the only way out to ensure their participation in democratic process.
The displaced Kashmiri Pandits expressing their dismay over the rigidity adopted by the authorities on the issue, said that a wrong impression has been created about them in political circles that they are not casting their votes deliberately which is not a fact. They said that in the real sense the Government over the years has failed to look into the problems and intricacies of cumbersome voting procedure adopted for them by ECI.
Pandits said that filling up of M Forms is a lengthy process and a voter has to go through many ordeals in filling up the Forms. He has first to visit a zonal office or download the M Form from the website, then fill it up and later deposit it in the concerned zonal office. This way a migrant for casting his vote has to visit the concerned zonal office twice or thrice. The voter is put to great humiliation and harassment, they added.
Even after depositing the M Forms some times the names, parentage or residential address don’t tally with the voter lists with the result the M Forms for all practical purpose are rejected by the authorities. Even at various offices, the employees don’t bother to check the M Forms as there is no accountability on their part and hence they throw them in dust bin and this way migrants’ despite filling up the forms get shocked on not finding their names in the voter lists. This makes mockery of the entire system, which is is another grievance of displaced people. This has happened in ongoing Lok Sabha elections also in the State that migrants protested during all five phases of elections alleging that their names did not figure in voter lists.
Dismayed over this lengthy process, they said instead of putting them to unnecessary problems the displaced people prefer not to cast their vote.
The migrants demand that instead of filling up M Forms every time in every elections, the M Forms filled up in one election should be considered a basic record of a migrant for casting his vote in subsequent elections, said Ravinder Raina, president ASKPC. A voter list on the basis of the same M Form should be authenticated and the consent given by the migrant once should be considered for all coming elections. The alterations and changes in the list should only be made if a displaced voter desires so or if there is deletion of voter’s name in the event of a death or shifting to any other place, he added.
In view of this, a migrant will be saved from the trouble and problems he has to undergo in filing the M Forms, he said, adding once the consent taken from the displaced voter regarding the polling booth he intends to cast his vote should be authenticated for future elections too.
Moreover, the polling station allotted to migrants after filling up M Forms should remain there in the subsequent elections in future unless and until the voter himself desires a change in the same, said Nana Ji Raina another political activist.
“All organizations of migrants including the political parties favour doing away with lengthy procedure of M Forms by simplifying the process”, said BJP vice president and MLC Girdhari Lal Raina. He said the migrant social and political organisations had protested number of times asking Government to alter the system but to no avail.
Same have been views of Ashok Kangan, a socio-political activists. Strongly advocating for doing away with M Forms, he said there is a record with Relief organization why the same is not authenticated by ECI and considered a basic record of displaced voters instead of asking them to fill up the M Forms in every election.
Not only the M Forms but filling up of Form 12 C is also a lengthy procedure for a migrant intending to cast his vote outside J&K. A displaced Kashmiri voter living outside the State and intending to cast his vote for a Valley candidate has to fill up the Form 12 C and get it verified from the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) of the areas where they are residing.
Maintaining that introduction of M Forms was a special dispensation for Kashmiri migrants to cast their vote, former Commissioner/Secretary Revenue and senior Congress leader Vinod Koul, however, suggested that the procedure of M Forms should be simplified to ensure the full participation of displaced people in casting their vote. But the decision in this regard should be taken prior to election notification and not during the elections.
However, former Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner, M L Raina said that the M Form is a special facility for migrants and people should not hesitate in filling up the same to cast their vote. He said it is also binding on the employees on polling duty to cooperate with the migrants in casting their vote.