Mohammad Abu Taher, 73, had to wait for 15 minutes just for the electronic voting machine (EVM) to recognise his fingerprint, a photographer of this newspaper saw first-hand at the polling centre in Banani Bidyaniketan School and College.
When his fingerprint could not be detected, polling agents rubbed petroleum jelly on Taher’s finger and made him wait five minutes. He tried again afterwards but it still did not work.
Then a member of his family massaged Taher’s fingers with some lip gel. Finally, after waiting in line again, and having his voter ID number manually entered, the EVM recognised his fingerprint and Taher could vote.
According to a report by Kaler Kantho, Taher was not the only one who faced this problem when using the EVMs. In seven polling centres, many other voters, especially the elderly or those who do a lot of manual work with their hands, also had to wait for their fingerprints to be recognised or left without being able to vote at all.
Polling agents relied on novel solutions to solve this problem. Md Shahid Ullah, a voter in Azimpur Girls High School, was asked to wipe his hands on the silky sheets covering the table.
When that failed, he too had his fingers smeared with petroleum jelly. Even then, the EVM was refusing to acknowledge his fingerprints.
Presiding Officer Sirajul Islam was soon summoned to solve this issue. He used his access to the system. Shahid still struggled to operate the machine on his own.
Assistant voting officers of the ward said that many of the machines were not working on the first try, but once National ID numbers were entered, the EVMs accepted fingerprint data.
The sight of tissues and petroleum jelly, however, threw off some voters.
Lack of those exercising their franchise, however, did not deter some politicians.
According to a Bangla Tribune report, Planning Minister MA Mannan said, “Most of the people who didn’t go to vote are relaxing at home and enjoying polao-korma because they trust their government.”
Kaler Kantha reported Returning Officer of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), Abul Kashem, as saying “Since it's Saturday, the young generation is probably still asleep. They usually wake up a little late.”
Unfortunately, these two are problems that petroleum jelly and tissues can’t solve.