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RTI unearths poll fraud in Cantt

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A huge electoral fraud involving tampering of the voters’ list and census figures, as well as wilfully distorting the procedure for reservation of electoral wards, has been unearthed in the Pune Cantonment Board (PCB).


This puts under a cloud the future of the poll process under which residents of the cantonment are to exercise their democratic right in local governance after a gap of 10 years.


The PCB has been accused of suppressing facts related to the 2001 census figures and provision for reservation of wards for candidates belonging to the schedule casts and schedule tribes (SCs/STs).

In reply to an application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by former PCB vice-president Krishna Divekar, the PCB in September stated that the number of SCs/STs in Pune Camp are 8,061 out of the total population of 79,965 or 10.08% of the total figures. Of these, SCs are 7,719 and STs form 342.


The highest number of SCs/STs is in ward number six (1,932), followed by ward number four (1,693) and ward number five (1,427).

In contradiction to the Cantonments Electoral Rule 2007 and the Cantonments Acts 2006, which directs that wards with the highest number of reserved category voters should be earmarked for reservation, the PCB had on September 21 notified ward number four, having reserved voters less than number six, as reserved for SC candidates.


Asseem Sheikh - activist and cantonment laws expert - said the board has blatantly violated the rule of law clearly specified in the books. "By violating the rules, the PCB has wilfully deprived the weaker sections from exercising their rights envisaged under the laws," said Sheikh, who has a copy of the reply sent under the RTI to Divekar. Divekar is seriously ill and is in hospital.


The PCB refused to furnish data sought by Sheikh under the RTI relating to data and maps provided to the board by the Directorate of Census Bureau in Mumbai. "The board told Divekar that the census office has supplied them with figures of 91 enumeration blocks in the cantonment which has a total 146 blocks. Twenty more are in the military area, while nothing is mentioned about the rest," he said.


According to him, the board multiplied the official figure of 8,061 by hundred before bifurcation and reservation of wards, while the census rules state that reserved category figures cannot be bifurcated, unlike the overall population figure. "Besides, the census maps and local block figures are classified under government rule and no local body can access them.


My queries to the board have not been answered more than a month after I sought them under RTI," said Sheikh.


At the same time, the PCB gave a very different explanation to former PCB member Shashi Puram when he sought the same details regarding SCs/STs voters. "In reply to my RTI appeal, the board replied on November 13 that no figures of SCs/STs voters in individual wards are available. This is totally different from what they told Divekar," said Puram.


Interestingly, ward number six, which has highest SCs/STs voters, is the ward of PCB vice-president Vinod Mathurawala who would have lost his seat if the ward had been declared a reserved one. In addition, the legal validity of reserving the seat even before receiving the final electoral rolls notification, which came only this week, has also raised eyebrows in Camp.


S.K. Sardana, PCB chief executive officer (CEO), accepted the argument of standard procedure of maximum SCs/STs population in reservation. "However, we rounded off the figure after only considering the additional ward number eight which has been newly created, while their argument is based on the old demarcations," he said.


PUNE: 17 Nov 2007

Pranjal Bhuyan,TNN

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It is high time for the government to examine the Cantonment Board system. This has absolutely no meaning and long due for abolition

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RTI is proving effectivess

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