When millions of people across the country were excited to become part of the world's largest electoral exercise with the commencement of the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections on Thursday, Meerut resident Braj Mohan could not cherish the moment. He was bewildered to see his late father featuring in the voter list, but not him.
Several cases of dead voters featuring in the electoral rolls and names of active voters going missing cropped up during the polling in Meerut constituency, which is just 80 km from the national capital.
Braj Mohan had filed an application with the election authorities, urging them to remove the name of his father Murarilal, who died three years back, from the voter list.
"I had asked them to remove my father's name from the list. However, it is still there. What is more shocking is that they have deleted my name instead. I was shocked to see my name in the deleted list, and that too with different photograph," Braj Mohan told IANS.
Murarilal's voter identification number is UP/80/396/0450226.
In the same Sadanpuri area lived a woman named Shobha (Voter ID number CNR2561307), who died two years ago. But the election authorities still consider her to be an eligible voter.
Another resident of the area, Nand Kumar (24), said that Shobha's family members tried to delete her name from the voter list several times, but nothing has happened.
"There are many such cases in our area. Many people who are not alive have been named in the voter list," said Nand Kumar, who also found his name in the list of deleted voters. He said he had voted in the 2016 Assembly elections and was excited to cast his vote in the Lok Sabha polls.
Another voter, Shakil Rajput, said that not just him, but his entire family of four members found their names missing from the electoral rolls despite all of them being regular voters.
Ex-armyman Mohan Singh Bhandari came all the way from Delhi along with his wife to exercise their voting rights. But he never thought that his excitement would turn into anguish.
"I spent almost three hours going through the voter list to check my name. However, I could not find it. How can the names of regular voters go missing," asked Bhandari, who now works as a manager at a five-star hotel in Delhi.
The Lodhi family in Purva Ahiran area of the city has names of its three members in the list who are no more. Among them is Rajiv Lodhi (Voter ID no HDM2653228), who passed away over five years ago. The other two are Dalchand and Sanjay, both of whom died a year back.
Gangasharan, Mohanlal, Vinod Kumar, Rajendra, Heeradei and Mukesh Lodhi are among the other dead people from the area who still feature in the list as active voters.
"These names have been found in just one area. If a proper investigation is made into the matter, we are sure that hundreds of such ghost voters would surface," said Avadhesh Kumar, a property dealer.
Commenting on the blunders in the voter list, sitting BJP MP from Meerut Rajendra Agrawal said they could be due to "human error" or even "conspiracies by the workers".
"There is human error. But there can also be a conspiracy behind the entire episode as the numbers are big. Some workers can work as per their prejudices.
"It must be investigated and there must be a fool-proof arrangement in place from the next elections. Voting is a sacred, fundamental right and the Election Commission and the entire nation is bound to protect it," Agrawal said.
A polling officer from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) alleged that out of around eight thousand voters in his ward, a number as high as 30-35 per cent were missing from the voter list.
In another booth in Takshila Public School in Shradhapuri, close to 500 names were missing.
However, a booth level officer (BLO) from Nateshpuram explained why many people's names were missing from the electoral rolls.
"For those who have voted before, there are different lists for 'sabhasad' (Municipal Corporation) and Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. They are thinking that if they make it to one list, the others will be updated automatically. But they have to get them remade.
"The reason could also be that their house numbers have changed, but their previous addresses are documented," said BLO Anil Kumar Rastogi.