April 2009

Change of Guard

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In the coming general elections Election Commission will use electronic voting machines in all the polling stations of the country and will also put in place  voter-friendly initiatives.


General  elections are round the corner as the term of the 14th Lok Sabha will expire  on 1st June, 2009. The electoral rolls of all States and Union Territories have been updated in terms of the aforesaid delimited constituencies, with reference to 1.1.2009 as the qualifying date.

However, the process of continuous updating will continue till the last date for filing nominations. The total electorate in the country after the first  round of revision is approximately 714 million compared to 671 million in 2004. This marks an increase of 43 million in the electorate.

PHOTO ELECTORAL ROLLS.

This year would be the first time when the entire country, except the three States of Assam, Nagaland and Jammu & Kashmir, would be using the Photo Electoral Rolls. Out of 543 Parliamentary Constituencies, photo electoral roll will be used in 522 Parliamentary Constituencies as well as in all the Legislative Assembly Constituencies in Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim and Orissa.  This will prevent impersonation and facilitate easy identification. The Election Commission had introduced the concept of Photo Electoral Roll in 2005.

This was tested as a pilot project during the 2005 electoral  revision in all the constituencies of Kerala and Puducherry, two constituencies of Haryana and one constituency each in Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. On the successful completion of the pilot project, the Commission took the decision to conduct the 2009 general election to Lok Sabha using Photo Electoral Roll.

ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINES

 In this year's election the Commission has decided to use electronic voting machines in all the polling stations of the country as was done during the last Lok Sabha Election in 2004. Currently, there are 13, 68,430 EVMs available in the country.
In regards to their working, first level checking of these EVMs has already been taken up in all the states/UTs and has been completed in many places.

LOOPHOLES

Getting an Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC) still is an major issue for a few eligible voters. No exaggeration, but a simple example from Noida. Rajesh, a II year BCom student from L R College, has been waiting for his original EPIC card since 2006. Holding those acknowledgement receipts for every form filed over the years and a duplicate card he managed last year, he is yet to see his original card. There are many more cases like Wrong photo, name correction and change of address, just to name a few which needs to be addressed by election commission at the earliest.

VOTER PARTICIPATION

The Election Commission of India in recent years has initiated various measures to streamline the process of voter registration. The Booth Level Officer system has helped in enrolling the eligible voters and in detecting and removing the names of the dead and shifted voters. The Commission has appealed  upon all the registered voters of the country to participate in the voting process and exercise their constitutional right to vote. Wider voter participation will make the democracy in India more vibrant and deepen its roots more strongly.

The Commission has also directed the CEOs to take certain voter-friendly initiatives, like voter help-line, voter assistance booths near polling stations, web-based search facilities to locate the names in the voter list and so on. The Commission has also issued guidelines to the CEOs to take special measures to facilitate voting for  the physically challenged voters.

 Elections in India in terms of its scale, magnitude and complexities are the largest and most vigorous democratic exercise in the world. The Commission is confident that all the stake-holders -the political parties, the candidates, the voting public and the entire election machinery, will fully appreciate the need for restraint and discipline to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections.  

Sandeep Budki
sandeep@egovonline.net

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