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Saturday, May 15, 2021

‘We’re afraid of Covid, but voting is a must’

While poll officials inside booths were seen taking temperature and distributing masks, outside, voters failed to maintain distance. At some places, strict compliance slowed voting, angering some people.

Written by Atri Mitra | Barasat |
Updated: April 18, 2021 5:33:20 am
election, West Bengal Assembly Elections 2021, west bengal fifth phase of voting, west bengal voting percentage, west bengal news, indian expressSocial distancing goes for a toss at a polling booth at Kamarhati in North 24 Parganas on Saturday. (Express Photo by Shashi Ghosh)

With the state clocking record 7,713 coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, voters flouted social distancing and other Covid-appropriate protocols at polling booths during the fifth phase of Assembly polls on Saturday.

While poll officials inside booths were seen taking temperature and distributing masks, outside, voters failed to maintain distance. At some places, strict compliance slowed voting, angering some people.

At booth number 131 of Barasat Constituency in North 24 Parganas, Sheikh Yasmin (43), his daughter Nuha Irani (18) and her mother Yashmin came at 7 am to caste their vote.

“We are afraid of Covid. But, we have no option because casting of vote is a compulsion. This is my first vote,” said Nuha. When asked if the Covid surge made them think twice about voting, Yasmin said, “We know if we failed to cast our vote then my name will be deleted from the National Population Registrar. Our identity is at stake.”

Eighty-five-year-old Netai Ghosh, who suffered a cerebral attack a month ago, reached the booth with grandson Lakshman (29). “We did not know that people above 80 had the option of postal ballot… We learnt about it later.”

A CRPF jawan on poll duty said that social distancing could have created a law and order situation. “All voters are given hand sanitiser. Those who don’t have mask are provided with one. Social distancing is not maintaining because here are nine booths and every booth has a huge queue. If we maintain proper social distance, it will create a law-and-order problem. So, we are avoiding that,” he said.

Besides Barasat, voters in other constituencies such as Kamarhati, Madhyamgram, Panihati, Dumdum, Bidhannagar, Rajarhat-Newtown, Rajarhat-Gopalpur were seen violating the social distancing norm.

At New St. Xavier’s School in Panihati, some voters alleged that the queue was getting longer due to strict compliance of the protocol. “We have been standing here for one hour, but the queue is not moving. Social distancing is not followed neither inside nor outside,” said Pallab Bhattacharya, 49.

At Deepshikha area of Kamarhati constituency, many people at CPM’s and TMC’s booth offices were seen wearing masks drawn to their chins. Workers of both parties said they were distributing masks and hand sanitiser.

At Ariadaha Girls High School, 73-year-old Amita Bhattacharya was wearing a mask and a face shield. “I have been voting since since 1970s but never faced such a hazard. I am sanitizing my hand frequently and especially after casting my vote.”

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