As candidates rested on the day before the polls after the hectic last-minute campaigning and voters wondered if their names were on the electoral rolls, government employees such as Siva Prasad were busy sprucing up polling booths.

The presiding officer at Booth No. 7M in Saidapet constituency, says, “Our work starts only now”. After setting up two “secret locations” – one each for male and female voters, the wait starts for the EVMs to arrive.

In the meantime, poll officers try to devise methods to overcome limitations imposed by lack of facilities and furniture on the premises. Mr. Prasad says, “Once the EVM is brought in, we cannot leave this room. Staying here through the night is a big hassle.”

However, he terms the election duty as an “interesting experience”. “Being a part of the electoral process of a nation with such a big population is something to be proud of,” he adds.

Mohan C. Cornelius, poll officer at a booth in Chennai Higher Secondary School (Villivakkam), says that skipping election duty has been impossible this time as the Election Commission has been very strict. “No excuses were entertained this time.”

He explains that in each booth, there will be three tiers of poll officers. “I am in the second tier and won't be allowed to go inside. In case there is any trouble, it is my responsibility to alert the police,” he says.

A third tier of seven to eight officers would be on rounds within a zone that contains about eight polling booths. They would alert the zonal officers in case a particular polling booth requires water, additional furniture or other amenities.

Security matters

Chennai city came under a security blanket hours ahead of the polling slated for Wednesday. Commissioner of Police T. Rajendran reviewed security arrangements with senior police officers on Tuesday.

Sixteen companies of Central Para Military Forces each comprising 120 personnel have been deployed across the city. Armed policemen have taken positions at vantage points and vital installations have come under police surveillance. Four Quick Reaction Teams (QRTs) comprising armed commandos were stationed strategically. Police would continue to check vehicles and the movement of outsiders. An undertaking promising good conduct was taken from 2,600 persons who came to the adverse notice of the police in recent times, police sources said.

More than 1,000 cameras have been installed in different parts of the city as a security measure. Of the 3,723 booths, in the Chennai City Police limits, which include some in suburbs, 1,753 were considered as critical, a police official said. As many as 1,014 Home Guard personnel have also been mobilised in the city. They will be posted in all the polling booths, to assist the city police during the elections.

Rs.1.18 crore seized

The District Election Office has constituted 25 squads to monitor distribution of money to voters in the 16 constituencies.

A sum of Rs.1.18 crore was seized from a person in Kolathur by the District Election Office. The District Election Office is investigating if the money was for distribution to voters.

District Election Officer and Corporation Commissioner D. Karthikeyan said that 10 engineers would be monitoring the functioning of the electronic voting machines on the day of poll in the 16 constituencies.

None of the 274 candidates in the 16 constituencies in Chennai district have exceeded the limit of Rs.16 lakh for election expenditure. Around 30 complaints pertaining to violation of model code of conduct are received by the District Election Office a day.

Ballot papers in Braille

The National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH) located in Poonamallee has supplied 45,000 dummy ballot papers in Braille to 177 constituencies of the State, including the 16 constituencies.

“Ballot papers in Braille would be of help to persons with visual disability as they can read and understand the content in the ballot paper without depending on others,” said I. Arivanandham, Regional Director (in-charge) of NIVH.

Names missing

Some voters, who did not earlier check the electoral rolls, found that their names were missing. Geetha Swaminathan, a resident of Kasturba Nagar, Adyar, was very disappointed to find her name and her sister's missing in the electoral rolls. “I checked a few days ago and our names were missing. We met the Corporation official and election official in-charge. They tried their best, but could not help us,” she said.

Having lived in the same house and locality for the last 40 years, and possessing valid voter IDs, Ms. Swaminathan, vice-principal of a city college, and her sister Prathiba, a doctor, did not feel the need to check the rolls earlier. “There is no question of addition or deletion, since our address has not changed in four decades. We have never missed voting every since we started in the 1970s,” she said. The first six houses in her street were left out and officials said it got left out due to a possible oversight and they apologised, she added.

(With inputs from Aloysius Xavier Lopez, S. Vijay Kumar, Ajai Sreevatsan and Meera Srinivasan)

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