Politicking for the February Assembly polls is yet to pick up pace but the common man is already facing engine trouble. In Dimapur, Avito Miachieo had kept his car off the roads on Friday after narrowly escaping being served requisition papers on Thursday. On Friday, he ensured it was dusk before he took out his family for dinner. Miachieo is apprehensive that he would be stopped by the cops and served requisition papers for his vehicle, an exercise being undertaken by the administration in preparation for the upcoming state Assembly elections.
Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura go to polls in the first half of 2018. Nagaland is first in the line – the elections are tentatively scheduled for February.
Miachieo admits that the administration has requisition authority for any private vehicle, but questions the logic. “I have a family, three kids and anytime an emergency may arise when I need my car. I am ready to hand over my vehicle for poll duty, but why can’t the administration first take the cars of those who own more than one vehicle,” he contends.
Since Wednesday, vehicle requisition for the Assembly polls has been the trending topic on local Facebook groups, with netizens taking potshots at the government and the district administration. While many volunteered suggestions, some dished out humour. Cops are halting cars at key points, seizing original documents of vehicles and serving requisition papers, leaving private vehicle owners frustrated. The rumours about vehicles being seized has led to panic among the locals.
Saleo Robviina, who hails from Manipur and works in Meghalaya, took to Facebook on Thursday to vent his frustration. His original vehicle documents have been seized by Nagaland cops who served him requisition papers for his Assam-registered car.
Peter Rutsa from Kohima echoed the sentiments of Miachieo on a Facebook post. Contending that requisition of all commercial vehicles would inconvenience the public, he suggested, “Requisition of private vehicles should start from imported vehicles (we all know what kind of people own them) and those private vehicles with price tags above 15 lakh. Without a doubt, the owners of luxurious vehicles are usually the people who benefit from the government the most. Let such people give back to the government. If not, seize private vehicles that are owned by government servants or retired government servants. Let polling officers travel in style!”
From the tone of social media discussion on vehicle requisition it the undercurrent of a growing dissent and ire of public against the government and those who can afford imported vehicles on potholed Nagaland roads.
Deputy Commissioner of Dimapur district Sushil Kumar Patil on Friday clarified that no vehicles have been seized. “There is no need to panic, we are not seizing any vehicle. The requisition papers are being served for an assessment on February 1. We shall also take vehicles from Manipur and Assam if the need arises. But we are taking case by case basis; if anybody has any problem, they can approach me and we can return the papers.” Moreover, he informed that the car owners, whose vehicle would be requisitioned after assessment, will be paid compensation for each day. “We have already sent the rates for approval to the Election Commission,” he said.
Nagaland Home Commissioner Abhishek Singh, who is social media savvy and a popular face among youths, also came out with assurances on a Facebook thread. “There is some confusion – as per Election Commission guidelines, primarily commercial vehicles only are supposed to be requisitioned for election duty. Private vehicles are the extreme last resort if there are no institutional or commercial vehicles available. Thanks for highlighting the issue – we will ensure that Private vehicles are not requisitioned in normal circumstances,” Singh said.
For those unaware, District Election Officer has the authority to order requisition of any vehicle under Section 160 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. But, if a vehicle owner has genuine problems and cannot part with his car, he can approach the DEO office, and papers would be returned. Government and commercial vehicles are supposed to be requisitioned first but neither can be exhausted. And given the requirements, private vehicles can be requisitioned. In Nagaland, vehicles are being served requisition papers for an assessment on February 1.