'Helplines dysfunctional during elections': GHMC call centre ignored 8,576 voters' calls over 2 yrs

The data was released by the election branch of the GHMC in response to an RTI filed by activist Robin Zaccheus.

By Nimisha S Pradeep  Published on  24 Feb 2022 2:32 PM GMT
Helplines dysfunctional during elections: GHMC call centre ignored 8,576 voters calls over 2 yrs

Hyderabad: From September 2018 to February 2021, a total of 8,576 abandoned or unanswered calls have been recorded at the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation call centre. This accounts for almost 23% of the total calls received at the GHMC's election help call centre. The data was released by the election branch of the GHMC in response to an RTI filed by activist Robin Zaccheus.

The toll-free number 1950 is exclusively set up by the Election Commission of India (ECI) to clear queries and lodge voter complaints. According to the ECI, any citizen from any part of the country can call the toll-free number in English or Hindi with any query or complaint at any time of the day. Callers can inquire on subjects such as elections, voting dates, EPIC, electoral roll, online registration, and lodge a complaint by simply calling the toll-free number.

During the period September 2018 to February 2021, the highest number of abandoned calls were recorded in March 2019 (2,829) followed by February 2019 (1910), and April (1,165). It is important to note that the country was gearing up for the Lok Sabha general elections in April that year (2019).

Robin filed an RTI petition on 7 November 2021 when he felt that there was mistrust among the people towards the Election Commission. "During the elections in 2018 and 2019, there were some articles on a lot of voters' names getting deleted from the voters' list, some data of the voters being shared with the ruling party, etc," says Robin.

"I tried calling 1950 but it was either busy or the calls were unanswered. The number exists while simply claiming to support the voters," adds Robin, sharing his own experience.

"These 8,000 people are the ones who tried seeking support but they didn't get the help they deserve. There was nobody to listen to them," says Robin. Realising how people were kept out of the crucial procedure in a democracy, Robin felt that there was a need for the Election Commission to take cognizance of what was happening, what were the complaints filed, and to address them.

The data also revealed that out of the total 37,432 calls received at the call centre, 28,676 were answered. The highest number of calls (7,165) were received from September 2018 to October 2018. In March 2019 and February 2019 also the call centre witnessed a high number of calls, 6,832 and 6,496, respectively.

Additionally, the executives at the call centre also make outgoing calls to educate the electors and spread voter awareness. During this period, 976 outgoing calls were made from the GHMC call centre.

GHMC in its response said the data from 2016 to 2021 have been enclosed but the complaint list only includes data from September 2018 to February 2021. Also, the RTI petitioner had asked for the type of complaints or concerns of the voters and the election-wise data of complaints that the authority has not provided.

Besides, Robin had also asked for information like if the ruling party has access to records of the VVPATs, the number of complaints regarding voters' names not reflecting in voters lists despite having a valid voter ID card, data stored in VVPATs, who has access to it, etc.

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