Maharashtra orders shutdown on polling day

On polling day, October 13, the state will witness an unprecedented closure of shops, malls, multiplexes, offices, commercial establishments, residential hotels, restaurants, theatres and industrial establishments so that citizens can go out and exercise their franchise. Essential services like the police, fire brigade, press and continuous process industries are exempted. Mumbai has a particularly bad record when it comes to voting. The 2009 Lok Sabha polls saw 41.24% Mumbaikars queuing up to vote; the figure was only a shade better, but still less than 50%, in the last assembly polls in 2004. Acting on the advice of the Election Commission, state labour commissioner Arvind Kumar issued orders on October 1 to the above-mentioned establishments to give their employees a holiday on October 13. The labour commissionerate has formed 28 special squads to keep an eye on offices, and employers failing to comply with the order could face arrest under Section 135-B of the Representation of People Act (1951). The labour commissioner’s circular adds that the Election Commission has noticed that certain employers do not give staffers a day off to vote. The particularly bad turnout—a little over 40%—this Lok Sabha poll seems to have come as a wake-up call for the government. Suburban collector Vishwas Patil had then said that a slew of holidays around April 30 had prompted many Mumbaikars to leave town, which resulted in the low turnout. A control room (23515969, 23521122) will be set up in the labour commissionerate to receive complaints from voters.

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