Thursday, May 04, 2006

a Photo ID!

Got myself photographed for the elector’s Photo ID card recently. The whole exercise was done in a most unprofessional manner leading to quite a few amusing incidents. Prior to the issue of the ID cards, a door-to-door enumeration of voters was done and subsequently the draft electoral rolls were published. Many of us took the trouble of verifying the draft rolls and also made requests for corrections in the same, wherever necessary. Having done all this, one expected things to go smoothly at the photography session but in reality, it was anything but smooth.

To begin with, the intimation of the photography session was given to us just the day before. And contrary to press reports, it mentioned that the photography would be done only on one day at that particular centre. So, a friend and I set out on the appointed day to the centre, which happened to be a Corporation Elementary school, where the kids were yelling at the top of their voices after the teacher!! My friend’s endeavour to find out if the photography would be done only on one day or would it go on for a week (as per press reports) resulted in the following conversation with the persons in-charge:

Friend: Saar, photo innikku mattum thaan eduppeengala? (sir, will you take photos only today?)

Person checking our ration card: illa saar, oru vaaram eduppom (no sir, we’ll take for one week)

Then we go inside and my friend asks the same question to the fellow taking the photo

Photo chap: yaar sonna?? Innikku mattum thaan eduppom (says who? We will take only today)

Friend: saar, veliya irukkaravar appadi sonnarey (sir, person sitting outside says so)

Photo chap: yaar adhu? Ingey vandhu solla sollu (whos that? Ask him to come here and say that)

Friend now goes outside and relays the sentiments of the photo chap and then gets the following reply -

Chap outside: Veliya vara sollu anda aala, ingey vandu sollattum (ask that fellow to come out and let him say it here)

This was red tape at its best and my friend realized that this was becoming futile and dropped his efforts to mediate between the two.

Considering that even our neighbourhood grocer asks for a photo ID these days, the voter’s ID card is one of the best proofs that one could have. Thus it was all the more essential that all the details were correctly printed. Hence when we found that there were quite a few mistakes in our addresses, we requested them to correct the same. But we were told that this was not possible now and if we want to make corrections, we have to approach the corporation office. Having managed to get a couple of hours break from work, I wouldn’t be able to get time off for getting the photo ID done on another day. So, I just decided to get myself photographed and get the ID card with the mistakes.

If I thought that my case was worse, I was quite mistaken. The following instances would show why!

M, a neighbour of mine, had turned 18 in September last was quite elated about the fact that she would be voting for the first time. Unfortunately, both she and her mother were shown as aged 43 years!! Once again, they refused to change her age in the records and she posed rather glumly for the photo. Her enthusiasm for voting had come down quite a bit.

Worse still was the case of another person whose gender was shown wrongly but was told that it could not be changed! In this age, when sex change is quite a reality and we have even movies being made on transsexuality which are nominated for the Oscars, here was a case where this fellow refused to key in the correct gender. Another neighbour found that according to the voter’s list there were two other people living in his house without his knowledge and to add insult to injury, his wife’s name did not appear in the list! The best goof up of all was one where the name of a voter was printed differently in English and Tamil! I wonder whether he will vote in the name printed in English or in Tamil :-)

And finally, the quality of the photo itself left a lot to be desired. Most people couldn’t recognize themselves in the photos!! As for my photo, suffice it to say that it looks straight out of India’s Most Wanted list!!

Having cribbed enough about the photo ID cards, one must also look at the positives. How many of us have had the disappointment of going to the polling booth on election day only to find that some good samaritan has already cast our vote? I hope the introduction of photo IDs will bring down this, unless of course, those good samaritans have also obtained photo IDs in our names!!

P.S: This was written a few weeks back but I had forgotten to post it before!