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Is India ready for NPR?

By Keya Sarkar
February 03, 2020 11:05 IST
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Prodded by Mamata Banerjee, Keya Sarkar updates her voter card only to discover...
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/


With not much to watch on television and there being only one movie hall in the whole of Santiniketan I find myself watching a lot of news.

Of course, with the CAA and NRC protests my time in front of the screen has gone up in the recent past.

In any case, for a long time now I have been a great watcher of news on TV.

My friends often joke about my daily need for a 'Mamata-fix', but I am a pretty serious follower of her daily public appearances.

Not that I agree with all that she or her party prescribes, but I am totally in awe of her personal stamina.

From district level meetings where she pulls up officials to her presence in the control room in times of natural disasters, the way she charms protesting university students to her ability to out-walk her security and her party men in her by now famous protest walks, all point to a level of energy which I admire.

I had been observing of late that in all her meetings to protest the CAA and NRC she has been advising all those who come for the rallies to do her one favour: 'Please update your voter card,' she says repeatedly.

'You must do me this favour,' and 'I will protect you with my life,' she promises.

Having heard this many times on television I urged my husband to check our details on the National Voters Service Portal.

He was reluctant to make an effort.

Primarily because my existing voter card was fine and secondly because only recently a surveyor had come home to update our details for the voter card.

Since this was a few months before the NCR/NPR debate there was no reason to view him with suspicion.

And as it happens in small places everyone knows everyone else.

So Somenath who we knew (from a nearby village) fed in our data and confirmed that our details were correct.

He stayed on for tea and apprised us of how many people had died in our area since the last elections and how the number of voters had shrunk.

So reposing immense faith in Somenath, my husband thought the need to check the voters list quite superfluous.

However he must have had a rethink.

One day just as we were going to sit down for dinner he announced that he had checked the list.

"Mine is fine," he said, "but your name has been changed."

"To what?" I asked in alarm.

To "Keya Nilmoni", he said. "It is fine in Bengali. It reads Keya Sarkar. But in English it is Keya Nilmoni. Your father's name is also Amiya Kumar Nilmoni," he said with what I thought was a hint of glee.

I would have laughed too if I wasn't concerned about having it corrected.

Thankfully we had Somenath's number.

We called him and asked how this could have happened.

He, of course, blamed it on "technical error".

An error which he said had changed all "Sarkars" of the locality to "Nilmoni". Since I know no other Sarkar in the neighbourhood I had to take his word for it.

He helpfully informed us that we could correct the error online.

While I sent in a request for the change online my husband and I were wondering how any data input person could create such a strange mistake.

Our logical minds were trying to find a plausible explanation.

And then it struck us. Actually before we had been introduced to Somenath who used to teach in a school for tribal children run by some friends of ours we used to know his father.

He was called Nilmoni!

NPR anyone?

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Keya Sarkar
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