GHMC polls: With no documents, flood victims may lose right to vote

"Humlogo ko vote karna hai!! Humara purrana cooperator kuch bhi nahi karra," said the flood victims

Hyderabad: The recent floods that hit Hyderabad in October did not just damage property, but also washed away important documents of people such as voter ID cards, Aadhaar cards, certificates, and several other documents that could prove one’s identity.

With the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections just a week away, many flood victims worry that they might not be able to cast their vote this time as they have lost their voter ID cards, and other documents in the floods.

Thanks to a complicated mechanism to re-apply for lost ID cards, flood victims have essentially lost their say in the most important local-level election which directly affects them.  “This (reduced voters) will drastically reduce the polling percentage as well,” said an official from the GHMC, on condition of anonymity.

Victims from Chhabra Enclave at Tolichowki, one of the areas that was affected due to the floods, echoed the same concerns. “The government has not given us new ID cards because they know that we will not vote for them. They failed to help us during floods,” alleged Mirza Baig, a resident. He added that if he could vote, he would have opted for the NOTA (None of the above option).

All other civic issues aside, the devastating floods that the city endured is expected to have an immediate impact upon the upcoming elections, as four lakh families were affected and had their homes (or properties) damaged or destroyed.

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A family of five brothers, who lost their belongings during the floods, said that they applied for new ID cards almost two weeks back but they are still waiting for it. Furthermore, a Meeseeva employee from Tolichowki who did not want to be named said that a new voter ID card might not be ready before the election date (December 1), even if people apply now.

Ahmed (name changed), another flood victim, demanded that new voter IDs be issued to people so that they can vote. He said, “Humlogo ko vote karna hai!! Humara purrana cooperator kuch bhi nahi karra (We want to vote. Our corporator has not done anything for us).”

A 58-year-old lady from Al-Jubial Colony, one of the worst affected places, said that she and her family, including her grandchildren, are not even interested in voting. “The candidates who we voted for the last time did not help us during the floods. So why should we vote again? We don’t need a corporator.” she said.

When asked, an official from the State Election Commission (SEC) said that they have an alternative plan for flood victims, with regard to the GHMC polls.

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“As per EC rules, 13 documents, including passport, driving license, ration card, and photo identity card issued by a government authority is acceptable as an alternative to the voter identity card for the purpose of casting a vote,” he said. 

Several low-lying areas like Tolichowki, Shaikpet, Hafiz Baba Nagar, Al-Jubail Colony, Ganga Nagar and Madina Colony were severely affected by heavy floods (caused due to heavy rains) in October. Houses were inundated with more than 10-feet deep water. Educational certificates, property, and other mandatory documents like the Aadhaar card, voter identity card, and driving licenses, etc., of residents in those areas, were lost or damaged. 

According to the data by the State Election Commission, the voting percentage was about 45 percent last election, but the official said that it might be affected due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In the GHMC area, 150 wards will go to the polls. In the previous elections, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) had won 99 seats, while the All India Majilis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) won 44, leaving other opposition parties with scraps. 

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