I-cards must in civic polls of 15 Oct

SANDESH PRABHUDESAI, PANAJI | 14 September 2000 23:00 IST

Goa's municipalities will go to polls on 15 October by making it compulsory for a voter to produce documentary evidence of his or her identity, failing which he would be denied his democratic right to exercise franchise.

"The provision is made to guard the voter's right, not to deny him that", says Prabhakar Timble, the state election commissioner. A balance has be maintained between the voting right and possibility of impersonation, he adds.

Goa was the first state in the country to introduce the concept of producing documentary evidence for polls, when the state had gone for the first-ever zilla panchayat elections held in February. However, voters were allowed to vote even without producing such evidence.

"With most of the voters coming forward with some or other document even at village level, we gained confidence to make it absolutely compulsory this time in urban areas", says Timble. He notified the rule only after inviting objections to it.

Though elections for Panaji (capital city) and Ponda municipal councils would be held next year as their term expires in March and September respectively, the tiny tourist state is going to polls in all the remaining 11 municipal areas.

These include fully urbanised towns of Margao, Mapusa, Mormugao and Bicholim as well as semi-urban segments like Pernem, Valpoi, Cuncolim, Quepem, Curchorem, Sanguem and Canacona, consisting of around two lakh voters.

In order to produce documentary evidence, the SEC has emphasised more upon photo identity while also giving an option of a ration card, pass book or any documentary evidence establishing the voter's identity, which could satisfy the presiding officer.

Among the list of photo identity cards include cards issued by the Election Commission of India, state or central government, recognised educational institution, the private employer with clear mention like name and designation of issuing authority as well as PAN card or driving licence.

"Unlike rest of the country, we can successfully implement such provisions in Goa due to high rate of literacy and small size of wards and municipal areas", says Timble. The number of total voters in any particular municipality does not go beyond 45,000, while Pernem has only around 3000 voters.

Goa, during the Assembly polls held in June last year, was the first state to also fully implement use of electronic voting machines. It was then also used in the Lok Sabha polls held later in September. But Goan voter has to go back to the ballot paper this time for the municipal polls.

Though the number of wards in each municipality varies between nine to 20, the SEC has however reserved minimum three seats for women in each municipality, while it is four, five and seven in Mapusa, Margao and Mormugao municipalities, considering the high number of wards there.

Notifying the election schedule, nominations would now begin from tomorrow while the last date for withdrawal would be 29 September. The candidates would be then officially given 15 days for propaganda, making code of conduct applicable.

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