The names of a large number of voters in Telangana were deleted from electoral rolls without due procedure ahead of last year's assembly elections, responses to queries under the Right To Information Act has revealed.
Reports of large-scale voter deletions had sparked anger during the Telangana elections on December 7.
NDTV had reported how a software that linked voter IDs with Aadhaar may have played a role in the deletions. Responses to RTI queries now show there were flaws in the verification process.
A letter dated 8 August 2015, written by then Chief Electoral Officer of Telangana, Bhanwar Lal, to Sumit Mukherji, Secretary of the Election Commission, states "door to door verification not conducted properly" in 24 assembly seats of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation Area and there were "many complaints that BLOs (Booth Level Officers) have not visited houses".
Between February and August 2015, the Election Commission had carried out the National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme or NERPAP, as part of which, voter IDs were linked with Aadhaar through a software to weed out duplicates.
But before someone cane be deleted, the name has to be on electoral rolls first.
Rules say the Election Commission has to go door-to-door issuing a notice to each voter. If a house is locked, the official is supposed to visit two more times and even then if the voter is not available, he has to paste a sticker asking her to contact the EC.
Replies to the RTI indicate this was not done.
Srinivas Kodali, a cybersecurity researcher who filed the RTI, claims the Commission is hiding a lot more.
"The Election Commission, UIDAI and Chief Electoral Officer of Telangana have consistently denied the role of Andhaar and state resident data hub on voter deletions," he said, accusing them of hiding facts.
"Even now, we don't know the details of the pilot projects which have taken place in Telangana. The Election Commission must answer for this. They need to delete Aadhaar data with them, voter data with government and give the lists of deleted voters".
Rajath Kumar, the current Chief Electoral Officer of Telangana, claims even if some names were deleted, the Commission has solved the issue by giving ample opportunity to voters.
"The NERPAP exercise was carried out in 2015 and subsequently there have been not only the annual revisions in 2016, 2017 and 2018, but we also had the elections in 2018, during which 26 lakh voters were registered, both new as well as those who got re-enrolled," Mr Kumar said.
The commission, he said, has carried out a drive now to prepare the list with effect from 1stJanuary in which 17.72 lakh voters have come in, "so we have given maximum amount of opportunity for those whose names were deleted at that time".
"The best that I can do as current CEO is to give them maximum opportunity to re-enroll themselves," Mr Kumar added.
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