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Electoral rolls - response from Manivannan

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Dear Friends,

Now that the posts on ‘Electoral Roll’ appear to have concluded, it’s time to respond to the issues raised. Many of the issues raised such as ‘bad system’, ‘where the buck stops?’, ‘dedicated official is an oxymoron’ etc are generic and serious in nature; let’s examine the issues with facts and figures.

Facts are important because, such a forum, having committed citizens who have time and energy to contribute positively to the state, must be exposed to facts and not subsist on the assumptions, however enticing they may be!

The below mentioned 5 points seem to the essence of the issues raised.

  1. Why is there no specialized department for taking care of electoral roll-huge database (‘why no Geology teacher’)?
  2. Is the system so bad (‘designed by a bunch of incompetent nincompoops’)?
  3. Quantum of mistakes – does it matter?
  4. Is apathy from the Government responsible?
  5. Are Government officials really hard pressed for time? Are they dedicated?


  1. This is a larger question coming under the purview of ECI. But,  had I been in ECI, I won’t propose a separate department, for the below mentioned  reasons:
    1. a.Ideally, the data needs to be collected and managed by a department which has the primary access to such data. They are the Municipalities and District administration. A new department will have to either collect data directly, leading to multiplicity or depend on these departments. Either way, it makes less sense.
    2. b.It is not economical to create a new department only for Election database, when it can be done to ‘reasonable’ accuracy by the existing departments.
  2. Now one may ask, ‘Then why the talk about geography teacher teaching geology?’, and ‘what is that ‘reasonable accuracy?’ What was intended in the post was, to inform that, the department currently lacks the expertise on data management, and inputs need to be given. (Can’t we enable the geography teacher to teach Geology fairly well?) ECI has started doing it.
  3. ‘Reasonable accuracy’ also brings the other point, ‘whether the error is small of big?’ While we agree that every vote counts, and it is precious, does it mean that there HAS to be 100% accuracy at ANY cost? If only 100% accuracy matters, then why concepts of ‘error margin’ and ‘6 sigma’?
  4. While the max error in the urban area is 0.18%, it is 0.0007% for the whole district of Mysore. (Of course, 0.18% is totally unacceptable and will be improved immediately). And I have not found anybody trying to ‘shamelessly sweep it under the carpet’!
  5. In a democracy, the system/Government is as good as the people.  Government officials don’t come from Mars! Aren’t they our friends and relatives? They may not be technically most competent, as the best and bright normally choose private sector, and are not ready to toil in the government.
  6. But, still there are people, who sweat it out in the government. During the elections, in the District of Mysore, 12,000 government officials left their home at 4 am in the morning, traveled 120 kms, halted in a class room, and woke up at 5 am, worked through the day, till mid night, reached their home at 3 am.
  7. Similarly, another 1000 staff at HQ worked for 36 hrs without sleep, to ensure that the poll process is carried out smoothly, and EVMs are safely sealed and stored. Is ‘dedicated officials’ really an oxymoron?
  8. The presence of apathy among many of the officials was never denied. Is that because the public have failed to bring it as a priority issue? There has been lukewarm response from the Political parties for appointing Booth level Agents (BLAs). To talk about the citizens, let’s look at the graph below. It depicts the number of citizen who approached the VFC (KR constituency) over past 2 months. (The zero points denote the holidays)

    This was after 16 media briefings, announcement thru auto rickshaws etc. Was the apathy monopoly of the government officials only?
  9. We are ready to get rid of our apathy. But, it will work well only if the other two stake holders, Political parties and citizens join hands. After all, in the democracy, government’s priorities are set by the people (Amratya Sen.)
  10. Next is the assumption that deletions affected the voting percentage.  Here we have the NR constituency, where large scale deletions were alleged. Kindly look at the graph. The red line represents the deletions in polling booths in the descending order, starting from the highest deletion. The blue line is polling percentage, which runs almost straight. Now, where is the connection?!
  11. I can go on and on. My sincere request is that, we should have a dispassionate approach to solving the problem, and not trapped by our baggage. It’s a great start to have a community of committed citizens. If we both work together, there is nothing that we can’t improve.
  12. We will meet; first with a ‘core group’ to understand the issue, discuss it threadbare, and come with a time bound ‘draft action plan’ and another, a general council of citizens, which will approve the Action Plan. I suggest that the first meeting can be held on 30th May and the second on 6th June 2009(both on Saturdays). Who among you will volunteer to co-ordinate?

Warm regards,
Manivannan, P


silkboard's picture

Thats more like it

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Way to go Mani sir, data and analysis is THE civil way to discuss and debate, not opinions and similes.

One question on error rates - are there benchmarks like if error rate > 0.5%, then rolls must be redone and election postponed?

To make sure we get the second chart (deletion vs poling percentage) well - X axis is showing 31 polling booths in NR, sorted by deletion count, right? So, booth #1 in your chart would be Rajiv Nagar with 334 deletions.

Want to confirm the definition of deletion as well - removing names from the list used in last election. How does EC decide to delete names - field-survey based? And who does the field survey? EC itself, or outsourced to a provider. Let me assume that the work is outsourced.

Could it be that the deletion (list revision that took place after December 2008) process was not carried out properly in the areas that have complained? Could it be that one of EC's outsourcers didn't do a good job? How do you track quality of outsources - random dipsticks, or post job data checks?

If I am political party X, can I go work with these Electoral Roll outsourcers to "rig" things - is there scope for that today?

Also sir, looks like you have more charts like the ones above. Can we get to see such data for all constituencies in say Bangalore and Mysore? Stats always have stories hidden in them..

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

ThankQ Mani Sir..Beginning of the end of Citizens pains....

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Mani Sir / SB

Good enough detailed justification but stats apart (citizens may not understand) ground realities have to be addressed with lots of patience and perseverance and any proposed 'action plan' must be simple, elegant, replicable, economical and sustainable with a futuristic ambience, data thus collected may lead  to an Online Voting scenario.

Prelm meeting proposed by Mani Sir on 30th Saturday May 2009/another meeting on 6th Saturday June 2009 - should be okay for Core Group Prajegalu from Mysoru and Bengaluru - Request Mani Sir, to allow me to give a detailed PPT on CIVIL with GIS - Success Story of a Street Committee at Mysoru - to invitees/Prajegalu.  We need to have as many Arabian willing horses as possible to win this novel race. 

Secondly, from Mysore, it will be better to invite like minded NGOs/RWAs/ Concerned Citizens who can extend helping hand  (Minus Sigmond Freud syndrome concerning 'narcissism of discontent' leading to failure of most radical movements in civil societies).   We need to approach this problem in a holistic manner and with an open mind as suggested by Mani Sir and make things plausible.

-Vasanth Mysoremath


murali772's picture

comparisons against eligible voter population available?

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Commendble job, indeed, Sir! This is what engagement with the public is all about, the essence of true democratic functioning.

Sir, are there figures/ estimates of the eligible voter population, constituency-wise, available, in order to make a comparison against the corresponding enlisted voter figures? Because, perhaps that's where the talk of less than 50% accuracy arose, to begin with. And, related to that is the question I have asked   here

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
sanjayv's picture

Thank you for the post Mani sir, how do we work the system?

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Your post was enlightening Mani sir.  While you have squarely addressed several comments posted here, without access to too much data, citizens are forced to go by their pown experience and anectodal data.

It took me 4 attempts over a year and a half to get my name into the list.  Even then, I am in a different part number from most of my neighbors. My wife's age in the list is wrong, though her date of birth in the computer which printed out our voter ID card is correct!  Out of my 8 immediate co-workers, 3 are registered to vote in their hometowns, 2 are in voter lists both here and in their hometowns, 1 found himself and his entire family out of the voter list despite living in the same house for the last 30 years and it took him 5 rounds of visiting officials to get back into the list.  Another has now managed to get his wife into the voter list (she is also registered in her hometown) while the last co-worker is officially registered without any problem.

So, in my opinion, many officials are hard working, a conclusion I have held for some time from personal experience, but the system is broken.  I also find the data of 0.18% error  in urban areas hard to believe, frankly, based on my personal experience.

That being said, yes, we have to engage and work the system to improve the state of affairs.  Let us determine the cause of the problem and determine a solution. Your insight to the functioning of the government machinery will be invaluable. 

psaram42's picture

Electoral Roll - a perspective

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 First of all I would like to record my appreciation to Praja for providing a common platform for discussions on important issues for the success of Democracy. The EC has a mandate to plan and get a 100% correct roll. Thus the objective when preparing an electoral roll should be to have a roll with no errors.

Mani sir you have tried to answer the 5 questions which are put by people who are frustrated over their inability to get the EPIC card or get one with atrocious mistakes like wrong sex etc. Your effort to answer them is appreciated.

I would like to give one example of a success story. It is a story of SAS property tax in Bangalore. The present government is spending lavishly on daily advertisement on this issue. The point I would like to make is BBMP has made the whole SAS web enabled which is working 100% correct. There are no errors. How was that possible? It is not difficult to find out an answer I suppose. There exists enough expertise in the country for such requirements.

In the case of electoral roll which extends to remote rural areas I am sure any number of strategies can be worked out. There is no dearth of expertise.


silkboard's picture

No "core group" or presentations

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I suggest that meeting be used for us to understand the electoral roll preparation system. We don't know enough.

Towards that, I suggest that

  • we keep the meeting open (there is no "core group" on Praja as such) for all. Trust that those woh want to come are interested folks. All can come, but subject to meeting etiquettes - questions submitted before hand, listen more than talk in this first meeting
  • No presentations about our individual ideas. VKMM sir - this is not against you as such, please understand. The focus has to be on acquiring the knowledge about the process and system here. Anything else will take the focus away and wont be the best use of our time.

I cant make it on May 30, but can on June 6th. Let us work the meeting dates via a separate event post.


Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

"Bottom to top" strategy may work better..

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SB Sir and Dear All

My submission - We all know the problems associated with the 'mother of all frauds- the electoral roll and its various avtaars'.  We need to talk about solutions rather than keep discussing problems, process and system failures. By now, I am sure the learned Prajas must have started in terms of solutions, however, micro it may be. 

(1)    I have already presented CIVIL with GIS to Mani Sir and other officials and citizens groups on 28-3-09 in a full house meet at MCC to discuss voters pains and to find solutions. (Praja posting: Success Story of a Street Committee in Mysore).

(2)    Organised a 'Walk to Vote' Silent March to DC Office, Mysore, with about 400 young members and businessmen and concerned citizens belonging to Heritage Mysore Round Table on 28-4-09 and explained to them the CIVIL effort about which they have pledged their support

(3)    On 8-5-09, presented CIVIL to Head, CII, Mysore / Karnataka Zone at his office and he had some encouraging words to bring in as many of his members for this novel idea.

(4)    on 10-5-09, presented CIVIL with GIS to the Members of Mysore Grahaka Parisht, a respected NGO and many members staying in different directions of Mysore have taken the details and the formats prepared for discussing in their respective RWAs etc.

Continuing these efforts, my proposal was to present to the 'core group' at Mani Sir's meeting our success story of a street committee - 'CIVIL with GIS -   AS A SOLUTION TO THE BURNING PROBLEM THAT IS KNOWN TO ALL OF US.  

This is what I have considered as the 'Bottom to Top' strategy.  Hope it is understood and I am game for any kind of plausible improvements.

-Motto: All problems will have solutions burried within them - dig them out.

-Vasanth Mysoremath 
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