CHENNAI: Social distancing and other Covid protocols went for a toss at many booths in Chennai and neighbouring districts on Tuesday. Amid rising number of Covid cases in Tamil Nadu, the election revealed that public awareness on the pandemic is still poor.
Voters turned out in large numbers at most places. Despite circles being drawn to demarcate social distance, voters tailgated one another to cast their ballot. For example, a five to ten minute delay at a booth in T Nagar at 7 am led to long queues with people standing close to each other.
Unfortunately this was common to many other booths. As many booths faced technical issues either at the start of the day or in the middle, crowd kept swelling at the booths. This problem was only exacerbated by the fact that most schools, which were used for polling, have narrow corridors and few entry points. People who came as families wanted to vote together, making protocols redundant.
Many did not even wear a mask while standing in the line, only to receive a mask and a glove just before voting. Even as steps were taken to ensure safety, they were not used properly by the public. However, the safety measures were not uniform. Though some constituencies provided plastic gloves and masks, others were found to be giving out hand sanitizers alone.
Some booths in Perambur and Maduravoyal did not give gloves early in the day; some others ran out of stock by mid-day. Even if masks were mandatory on paper, people walked in with their masks hanging down their chin. In areas like TVK Nagar, Perambur, Egmore, Kolathur and Chepauk, voters, especially women, arrived in large numbers in buses and autos. In Nanganallur, a major poll booth witnessed violation of protocols with no action from booth staff. Social distancing was amiss even in parts of Chengalpattu district.