By: Kamal Baruah
I wasn’t surprise again for another letter for training on EVM/briefing on ECI Guidelines. Elections come and go however all these fascinating attractions on poll day brought me as a flash of remembrance and there was painful reminder of darker moments of a restless night prior to the poll day. Every so often even the entire District Administration to the government machinery fetches a hectic schedule. Conducting election is a mammoth task and it’s challenging for Election Commission to ensure smooth functioning from training to Election Dayand counting. The incidents leave an indelible impression on everyone.
And I pushed my work aside as drafted forpolling official by the Deputy Commissioner in recently held GMC election and I hurriedly drove through the congested street of the Zoo road. Amid flyover work, rush-hour commuters in the morning made things worst. There was no way even footpaths were not spared while two wheelers jumped over pedestrians. I skipped breakfast to catch up the reporting time and hope to get some snacks over there. The Commerce College looked festive. For the moment I was unable to move as parking was full and felt being lost in the familiar campus. The volunteers however guided everyone to the venue.
Going back in time to visit an earlier era is a fantastic reverie and I travelled a while after seeing lines of desks and benches. Professional trainers faithfully lectured everything about rules and regulations, never hesitating to respond to the call of duty. The sessions were too rigorous and instilled fear in us about getting anything wrong. We’re left feeling anxious. After an hour, trainees poured out the verandah on the lookout for light refreshment (tea-biscuit). In the meantime, the packets arrived, not surprisingly, that snacks changed the mood of the entire learning enormously, forget about monotonous lessons. We ate well and shone bright too.
Loaded with knowledge from 3 days of hectic learning, we group of four finally arrived for the final meet at Trade Center for collection of poll materials. Officials were happy to meet an unplanned reunion of many old friends. There were lines of counters for Control Unit/Ballot Unit to various forms/books, envelopes, sign boards and stationery. The dining hall at the end grabbed everyone’s attention. The yellow pass for a buffet lunch made all happy after a watchful waiting.
“Wow!” we weren’t expecting tempo to arrive for ISBT while setting up a polling station to a distant place at one Primary School. We got into difficulties at the outset while we’re expected to spend the night at booth with no sleeping arrangement. The headmaster and BLO enquired about our welfare and every little bit helped us arranging a row of tiny desks of primary to form a makeshift bed for the night. Extra materials of voting compartment helped us to feel as mattress. As I tried to rest over there, it couldn’t help being just nostalgic, but wistful, about how simple child-art of landscape, posters of alphabets and numbers on the wall.
Polling staff, the backbone of voting process are mostly catching up on lost sleep. Voters already turned up before dawn and CRC completed in presence of agents at 6 o’clock. The model code of conduct was put into force then. The voters remain largely uneducated that letting the process slow added by the shifting of names from the register of voters. Polling was making progress, albeit rather slowly. The queue slips were to be issued at 04:30 pm to complete it. Unruly voters got angry why queue called in decreasing order. We had to control them tactfully from any disruptive activities. Ramen’s experience, Ali’s patience and Jitu’s youthful energy paid off and we finally pressed the CLOSE button at CU.
All was not over then. It was time to fill up tens of forms and sealing with few drops of hot wax and final packaging. Envelopes from yellow to blue, brown, while and stationery were scattered all over. Arranging all those letters, reports, forms, certificates and declarations were met with puzzled looks. However a good sense of teamwork pulled off a successful completion by step-by-step operations. We had left bag and baggage.
A huge crowd gathered at MDTC amidst a fanfare of polling personnel. Five important yellow envelopes followed by BU, CU and leftover materials were however deposited without any difficulties. Eventually after midnight, we felt an incredible sense of relief. Never had we felt so on edge before the final clearance. As we came out from the hall, the signage welcomed us once again for another splurge on a lavish dinner. Then at the same time, I suppose administration cut basic amenities at polling booth to save pennies.