CHENNAI: Social distancing and other COVID-19 safety protocols went for a toss at many polling booths in Chennai and neighbouring districts on Tuesday. Amid the rising number of COVID-19 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 distancing, voters tailgated one another to cast their ballot. For example, a five to ten minute delay at a polling 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 polling booths. As many booths faced technical issues either at the beginning of the day or middle, people thronged the premises to ensure that they got their chance at voting. The longer the delays, the denser the crowds became.
This problem was 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 as a family making all 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.
However, the safety measures were not uniform. Though some constituencies provided plastic gloves and masks, others were found to be giving out hand sanitisers alone. Some booths in Perambur and Maduravoyal did not distribute any gloves early in the day; only sanitisers were given. Some other booths 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, Chepauk, voters, especially women, arrived in large numbers in buses and autos. In Nanganallur, a major poll booth, the Nehru memorial government higher secondary school, witnessed violation of COVID-19 protocols by voters with no action from police or booth staff.
Social distancing was amiss even in parts of Chengalpattu district.