Many couldn’t even register for the Covid-19 vaccine as they are ‘deceased’, according to official papers
Over a hundred people from different upazilas of Panchagarh have been declared dead and their names have been removed from the voter list.
As bizarre as it may sound, these people – who are all alive and healthy – are now unable to vote, avail banking services, benefits of government-led initiatives, among a number of other issues.
They cannot even register for a jab of the life-saving Covid-19 vaccine as they are shown “deceased” in official documents.
Now, one can draw parallels of this incident with the critically acclaimed Indian movie Kaagaz where actor Pankaj Tripathi portrays the struggles of farmer Lal Bihari Mritak, someone who was also shown dead in official records as part of a plot by corrupt relatives to grab his land.
“I demand justice as to why my name was removed from the voter list after I was falsely declared dead.
“I want a probe into who ‘killed’ me,” a frustrated Monwar Hossain Monu told Dhaka Tribune.
Monu, a resident of the Nagarkumari area under Ward No. 3 of Boda Municipality, re-registered as a voter in 2008. He was classified as deceased in the revised and updated voter list in 2014 and since then he has not been able to exercise his franchise in any of the local or national polls.
“I failed to get a loan from the bank as my name was not on the Election Commission's server. I also couldn’t register for the Covid-19 vaccine,” Monu added.
Monu is only one of the many disenfranchised living in the district who have been shown dead in government papers, although they remain alive.
Another victim of this scandal, Dhardhara Pradhan Para Government Primary School Headmaster Jitendra Nath Barman, got registered as a voter in 2008.
In 2016, he could not even vote for his younger brother Ajit, who participated in the union parishad elections, as his name had been removed from the system in 2012.
“The promises of those concerned, including those in the Election Commission, are meaningless. I have been harassed more than once while trying to get this fixed,” he added.
Barman said: “I applied to the Boda upazila Election Commission office on January 5 this year for my name to be re-entered in the voter list. Two months have passed since then and I am yet to get my name included.
“No one [those who updated the voter list, govt officials] was able to show me any document as to who had got my name removed and how. They could not even give me any solution despite my repeated attempts. Now I am disappointed and frustrated.”
Regardless to say, a healthy Barman continues to teach children in his primary school – without getting any salary or other benefits – for being “dead on paper.”
According to sources, the Election Commission offices in Panchagarh Sadar, Boda Tentulia, and Atwari upazilas reported these people as “deceased” and removed their names from official documents during moves to update the voter list from 2010 to 2016.
Monu and Barman, along with others fighting the system to prove they are alive, urged the authorities concerned to re-enter their names in the voter list immediately.
They also demanded strict legal action against the culprits responsible for this mishap through a proper investigation.
When contacted, Boda upazila Election Officer Shahidul Islam Sarkar, said: “I have just recently joined here. I can't say a lot. I don’t know how this happened. The person who was in this office before me didn’t leave behind any documents in this regard.
“However, several applications have been made for getting names re-enlisted in the voter list. Maybe more are on the way. I have sent these applications to the district election office, which then will be sent to our central office following approval from there.”
“Approvals from the data collector, UP member and chairman concerned are necessary to remove someone from the voter list,” he added.
Meanwhile, District Election Officer Md Alamgir said: “No one gets his or her name removed from the voter list for any reason other than death. This may have happened due to errors in the NID numbers while the voter list was being updated or because of the mistakes by data collectors and their supervisors. I have received 20 applications related to such incidents from Boda upazila alone. Those applications have been sent to the Election Commission. Necessary action will be taken after further investigation.”
Officials, while seeking anonymity, feared that the number of people who were alive but had been shown dead in official papers may go up in future upon further investigation.