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EC/ SEC - symbol of incompetence, incapacity, apathy, lack of accountability, all put together

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During the Koramangala SmartVote exercise, this is what the members chanced upon "We introduced the software mainly to enable voters to start an easy search for their names on the voter lists online. However, in the process, we found that a number of names were exactly replicated. That set us thinking — what happened to the 3,000 names originally on the list?" For the full report in the TOI, click here.

The Citizen Matters report is even more graphic. But, what's even more shocking is the fact is that there are over one lakh duplicate EPIC cards floating around, which fact has been brought out in the original report prepared by SmartVote.

Very plainly this is quite the height of incompetence, incapacity, apathy, lack of accountability - all put together on the part of the Ec/ SEC combine. I would label it nothing less than subversion of the country's democracy, as much as any Naxalite or such activity. It's high time the people demanded the total revamping of the entire EC/ SEC set up, after sacking the present incumbents, and functions such as preparation and maintenance of voter lists, etc outsourced to competent professional agencies, quite like UK and many other advanced countries are already doing with a large part of their visa processing - check this

Enough is enough!

Muralidhar Rao
 

Comments

murali772's picture

crying shame

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The plight of many other common voters across the city is worse. A late father-in-law is shown as husband, more than 50 voters are aged 150 years, some even 0 and below 18 years. A deeper search will elicit that one Shankar from Okalipuram (ward 96, Gandhinagar assembly) is 655 years old! A ‘Thayamma’ under ‘Other’s name’ lives at house number 271, which has at least 33 voters. These are just a few other surprises on the list.

What went wrong? - We are looking into the real reasons for this error as the hard copies available with us are all correct.


For the full report in the TOI, click here.

The question should be 'what is wrong' - not 'what went wrong'. And, the answer is 'everything'. The present team is just not capable of doing a proper job; just restructure the entire set up, with the job of preparing and maintaining the voters' lists across the country outsourced to professional private players.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

the answer is staring in the face

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Passport Seva Kendras (PSK) will make the application process more user-friendly; front-end activities will be outsourced to private partners. Also, online links will be established with district police headquarters in all states for quick verification. "These reforms were needed due to unintentional delays. A serious exercise has begun to bring about structural reforms too. The main data centre for PSKs will be in Delhi; a data recovery centre will be in Chennai and other network operations unit will be based in Delhi," Mr S M Krishna said. For the full report in the TOI, click here.

The outsourcing is to none less than TCS, and not some fly-by-night operator, like the SEC has presently engaged for issue of the EPIC's. When the Passport Department can undertake such structural radical reforms, what prevents the EC/ SEC from following suit?

 


Muralidhar Rao
Naveen's picture

Not comparable

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Passport applicants pay high charges for their passports. Issue of an income-tax tax PAN card (thro' UTITSL / NSDL) is also very efficient & an applicant has to pay Rs.94/- for the service. These are applied for by people with higher incomes who seek efficiency & quality.

Voter ID cards are free & every single individual is eligible for one - the number is 1.2 billion !  The aam aadmis, mostly are the ones that actually use it for voting (The urban rich take it for anything other than voting).

Unless a way has been found to meet the higher costs for better & efficient services for improving the voter id card system, nothing will change. Perhaps govt needs to subsidize the costs as charging for voter id cards is politically difficult.

kbsyed61's picture

Gross misunderstanding of IT systems and process!

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Murali, Naveen,

 Until a year ago I was also under the impression that bring in IT systems and processes, things would look better. This was based on my personal experience while working in US. Coming from Process engineering domain, I have a good sense of how the processes are selected, are designed and implemented. I have involved in many such implementation from scratch to finish, tweaking the intermediaries and in some cases just went for user training. All this was easy and not so complicated is because the clients or customers know what exactly they want and how they want it. That made things relatively easy for writing requirements to actual implementation and launching production versions. Also the maturity of people's knowledge about IT systems and their accomplishments also plays a great role for wider IT systems adoption in all fields.

 My engagement with KSRTC and BMTC through Praja has taught me the ground realities in India. The government official understanding of IT systems is- It is one time job and the contractor/supplier for IT system knows everything. In most cases they are happy with just a static website giving some department information. Nothing for the public to make use of. All this I will attribute to the infancy of IT system's awareness. Government officials still do not understand the benefits of IT systems use and what all can be achieved by IT systems. Even when IT companies in their honest approach make the proposals, they (Govt) simply can't understand it. Spending on IT systems is considered to be of low priority.

Praja's work for KSRTC is an solid example. When asked for our feedback on their website, myself and few others we did a thorough review of their website and came up with the feedback. Based on the feedback, we came up with very high level of requirements and a designed that would best serve the KSRTC website. Since the website was meant to serve the public, it definitely needed the dynamic functionality which required back-end and front end systems. These systems should tie into the KSRTC's operation processes so that all the additions/deletions/changes happen dynamically and the information presented to the public is latest and up to date. Since this was determined to be larger efforts, a 3 phase development plan was suggested to KSRTC. After 4-6 months of back and forth communication, in the end KSRTC conveyed that at this point they only want few changes to their present website so that it look good. That experience tells the story.

 In order to make use of IT system in any field specially in govt departments in India, it is important that they have a good robust processes working already. These processes should make it as the requirements and govt departments has IT expertise to evaluate these requirement in the delivered systems. All these requires a comprehensive understanding of deliverable, good amount of investment and expertise.

One way to deal with it would be that each state and central govt creates a IT department that is responsible for all the IT systems and processes needs. It doesn't need to have a development center etc. Rather it just helps the respective departments to buy the right systems. It can also become a some kind of regulator that would audit IT processes to ensure data and national security concerns. India has the IT expertise who can do this job.

silkboard's picture

Is card the problem?

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Taking forward what Naveen has said - we are talking 800 million cards, and all for free, so something has to be different here.

If you think more, the problem is the card itself.

  • Its a physical token, which is issued to an individual. Unlike some other cards, Individual has little incentive to take good care of it.
  • It is frozen in time, detail are true as on a certain date. So, you have the 8A process
  • Because the stress is on saving costs (800 million cards!), there are minimal security features.
  • It does not create any new token of identification from scratch, you need to produce other forms of address proof and identification to get this new card.

Etc, etc etc, but the gist is, you got to do two things here

  1. Eliminate the card itself
  2. Or, somehow, take the focus out of cost (do it for as little money per card as possible)

If all other identity card makers were to rely on Election Commission's work, as in I-Tax, dept, RTO, BPL etc become Election Commission's customers, then you get #2 solved partially.

Also,

  • Imagine leaving behind your thumb print and photo when submitting Form 6. You get no card in return.
  • Form 8 process could almost be reduced to self-service. Put down your thumb, and someone changes your name, address etc right then and there.
  • Imagine Voting machine integrated with a finger print reader
  • If you are registered, Voting machine will record your vote, or else not
  • Unregistered votes also get saved, and could be reconciled later.
  • Best case, if your thumb print is available in any other data base, like say RTO, or Police, or Passport  Office, you may get registered on the fly as well.

Basically, get rid of the card, and move as much processing work to backend, or to 'just in time'. Right now, the process is a a bit spread out and decentralized, there are too many contact hours being spent around this thing called the Card.

UID would definitely be thinking all this, in much better details. They aren't going for any physical card either. It will be good to learn how they plan to help or interface with Election Commission.

Naveen's picture

UID-Census will improve Voter Id process

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UID would definitely be thinking all this, in much bette details. They aren't going for a physical card either. It will be good to learn how they plan to help or interface with Election Commission.

SB - Your last para sums it all. Going by news items about census-2011 & recent reports about the UID project, it seems clear that central govt is trying to integrate both these together for data collection, even though the exercise is incredibly huge, especially since they have only bits & pieces of data here & there, all of which need updating.

Syed - costs for having & maintaining very detailed web pages currently will be out of proportion since users are too few for such facilities. KSRTCs online ticket booking is dynamic though & one can even choose seats & complete the full transaction online. A KSRTC official had mentioned that bulk of the users of online ticket booking were for airavat class buses (ie. the most expensive inter-city volvo bus tickets), but this market was the smallest in terms of passengers carried.

murali772's picture

too high a cost!

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@ Naveen - The voter list is the key element in the democratic governance of the country. There can be no cost higher than when it is inaccurate, particularly to the extent that it is currently (over 50% even by EC's own admission). This is one area where the government cannot be allowed to cut corners any more.

 

Muralidhar Rao
Naveen's picture

Voter Id - Key to democratic process

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The voter list is the key element in the democratic governance of the country. There can be no cost higher than when it is inaccurate

Mr Murali - Agreed. Some way has to be found to meet costs for refurbishing the rickety voter id system since charging all voters is impossible. There is some hope now with the UID project, & hopefully, they will tackle voter Id cards much more seriously too since data would all be made readily available, which is perhaps more than half the job done !

murali772's picture

need of the hour

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The need of the hour is to increase the voter percentage. We have to reform the electoral system completely. We can't function with a 19th century system. How is it that our banking system works so well while we consistently fail to prepare the voters' list. There has to be some effective reforms. It seems efforts have not been put in this area for a long time - Ramesh Ramanathan, co-founder, Janaagraha in today's TOI

Finally, the real problem is now slowly gaining attention - well, never too late.
 

Muralidhar Rao
idontspam's picture

KYC mandatory for parties

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How is it that our banking system works so well while we consistently fail to prepare the voters' list

Because the customer pays the banks bills & can walk to another bank if he is not treated well. Parties have to realize if the voter turnout is 45% the rest 55% are an automatic 49-O. If they want more people to vote for them they have to work to register them for loyalty and ensure their name shows up in the list.They just want to hire loud autorikshaws and demand that they hand them votes on a platter.

murali772's picture

Yes, Sir - that's plainly the way out!

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I myself have been a witness to blunders in the voters’ list in the last three elections. It’s time the State Election Commission (SEC) outsourced the voters’ list updation to an agency. This will also help fix accountability. We are writing to the SEC about this - Law Minister, S Suresh Kumar, quoted in today's TOI. For the full report, click here

However, it better be to some reputed agencies like TCS, as the Passport department has done, and not to some riff-raff like the SEC has engaged for issuing the EPICs.
 

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Denial of democratic rights to floating pplation/ migrant worker

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Now, rightly or wrongly, the country's electoral rules consider any adult citizen, who has been resident at an address for more than 6 months, eligible to vote in an election in the constituency in which the address falls. And, given today's turbulent economic and hence job market scenario, the system calls for facilitation of transfers across constituencies, not just within the state, but across the whole of the country, and speedily too. Very clearly, the archaic system currently in use by the SEC/ NIC combo is nowhere capable of that, and, consequently, we today have a scenario wherein huge swathes of the population remain deprived of their basic democratic rights.

Integration across the country will perhaps call for a link up with the UID project. Whatever, the job calls for far more professionalism than the capacities presently at the command of the SEC/ NIC combo, and therefore the urgent need for engaging companies like TCS (who have currently been entrusted the job of undertaking all the back-end work connected with issual of passports) to undertake it.
 

Muralidhar Rao
Naveen's picture

Atleast thinking about changes

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Law Minister Suresh Kumar remarked flwg (in italics) :

Change will happen if electoral processes become a sustained year-long activity. Political machinery at the booth level must be active even after elections.

Perfect - they need to independently work continuously on voter lists, Epic cards, consituencies, etc.. Interference from ruling parties must also be stopped (ruling parties take it for granted that it is their right each time).

It’s time the State Election Commission (SEC) outsourced the voters’ list updation to an agency. This will also help fix accountability. We are writing to the SEC about this.

SEC will obviously plead helplessness & shortage of manpower - the same old deficiencies that have been prevalent in vintage India without fail!  Funding from central govt through election commission is obviously needed, & no politician will ever wake up to this reality. Though change & far more efficient processes are called for, attitudes continue to lag behind by decades.

We can get outside people — non-government staff — but this may reduce accountability. We have discussed this view as well. We are looking at eliminating teachers completely from election duty. Alternative staff from among citizens will be considered.

The possibilities for malpractices is very high  - booth cpaturing & gerry mandering will surface for which safeguards need to be found.

ramanathan_rmn's picture

getting a voter ID with correct,name and address itself is a hi

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i had faced the ordeal of undergoing heavy streess in correcting my name and address in the ID You know how many times I visited not less thasn 10 times.even after that  the street name was omitted.the people entusted with this job never put their efforts properly in compiling the data.the verification by the prospective voter to see if he has been enlisted in the list after submission of the required documents warranted 5 trips to the office.then verifying the names, father/husband name, door no, street name area etc took another 5 trips to the EPIC centre.Nobody there tokk it seriously.only outsourced peiople who do not having sufficient training on the job, and a Tahsildar who used to say that it is not his cup of tea and that he was simply co-ordinating and the main responsiblity was not with him.Invariably i was able to meet almost all of the people who were in the queue had been repeatedly calling on the office either to veriify or correct his/her perssonal data on the EPIC card..Then how many people would have got a valid voter ID.and how can anybody expect the poloing  rate above the standard levels.The Governemnt officials, I believe took revenge on the Government itself,I believe.

gurudas.s's picture

Employing other tan teachers for election duty

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Willing senior citizens and retired Service Officers through registered Associations can be the right answer. The suggested group will definitely conduct themselves more responsibly and righly exercising the powers given to them. With their experience of serving in different lands and conditions there cannot be a substitute to the above group particularly for the Election duty. Their only demand might be to clean water, simple good food  and toilet facility at the time of duty!

Gurudas

Gurudas.S

I do support the action of SI Srinivas and support nominating him for recognition as an honest & deserving Govt. official for performing his duty in the right spirit.

 

murali772's picture

too high a cost!

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@ Gurudas
Even these functions should be outsourced to professional event management companies. Doesn't matter if there's a higher cost to it - nothing can be costlier than a flawed electoral process.
 

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

A giant step backwards for democracy

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My name has been changed to Narasinhaman N, worse I am described as the father of Kalyani, my wife of four decades. I feel therefore uncomfortable when I look at her! While “Gautham N” and “Gowrang N” are my sons, the Electoral Rolls have given me two more sons, since Balakrishna Mohite, 62, and just 8 years younger to me, is shown in English also as “Gauthama N” and me as his father! Mohite’s wife Rohini in English, becomes my youngest son “Gauranga N” and I become my own son’s “husband”! I have no plans of emulating the 74-year-young Brit Gerry Burks, blessed with his second child on March 12, 2010.

Imagine the dimensions of the mess in the whole electoral rolls! Does C.R. Chikkamath, the State Election Commissioner mean “weed in bloomers” when he says “weed out”? What is the game? As I came out from the polling booth, grumbled one voter . “We elect the next one to plunder us!” May would endorse his grouse.

A respected industry leader remarked recently “I suppose it must be in our genes….” referring to our penchant to compromise with mediocrity.

Let us attack the source that has been causing this mess-- our flawed electoral system.

For the full text in the New Indian Express, click here

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

three wise men in town, but - -

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By December 2011, all 716 million eligible voters of India will have a valid voter ID card, chief election commissioner Navin B Chawla has promised. In Bangalore on Tuesday for the diamond jubilee celebrations of Election Commission of India, the CEC said: “As a robust democracy, we’ve always been able to hold elections on time and even managed an orderly transfer of power. But missing names and voter IDs are big challenges which remain to be tackled.’’

THE CHALLENGES AHEAD - As of May 2009, more than 80%, that’s nearly 582 million voters, have voter ID cards. The remaining 15% will be covered by December 2011. “This is the toughest part that remains to be covered. It’ll take us at least another year and a half to complete the process.’’ Efforts are being taken to make the electoral machinery people-friendly. He felt the growing urban voter apathy needs to change. Not many urban voters participate in the electoral process, Chawla said. Further, all political parties should have agents to regularly coordinate and work with booth-level officers (BLO) for better EPIC coverage, he added.


For the full report in the TOI, click here

The three wise men were in Bangalore for the whole or two days, if not more. Originally, there was supposed to be a symposium to which luminaries, academicians, civil society members, media, etc had been invited. Ms Meenakshi Bharath, the Lok Satta party Vice President, was amongst them, and she had been requested to bring along some 8 people known to her (this 'luminary' had been invited to join her). But, even as she prepared a memo to present to them, Mr B V Kulkarni, Joint CEO, sent her a message stating that the symposium had been cancelled, and that it was going to be only a conference of CEOs and officers. Any number of attempts by her to get an appointment with the CEC, even to just hand over the memo, failed, with the personal secretary very politely declining such requests.

Well, that much for the CECs call to political parties, luminaries, academicians, civil society members, media, etc to help inprove the processes (OK, that was not exactly what he said - perhaps that was not what he meant, either).
 

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

e-visa

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The cabinet on Thursday approved a Rs.1,011 crore e-project to streamline and integrate the visa, immigration and foreigners registration and tracking process and enable information sharing across the concerned agencies. The National Institute for Smart Government (NISG) had been tasked with the responsibility for generating a comprehensive e-governance solution for the immigration, visa issuance and foreigners' registration and tracking functions, and to prepare a detailed project report for the same. For the full report in the TOI, click here.

So, even as visit to the country (and outside the country) is being further facilitated, and quite rightfully so, people living here have to continue to make do with the archaic electoral system. How ironical and iniquitous!

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Error-free electoral rolls

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It's time to change a voter's frustrating EPIC drive. If all goes as jointly planned by the Election Commission of India and Janaagraha, then all eligible voters of Shantinagar can boast of a hassle-free voter-registration system and near 100% accuracy in electoral rolls within the next six months.

This is just part of the big picture of BEST, short for Bengaluru Electoral System Transformation project, that's all set to be launched on Friday. The pilot efforts will then be scaled and extended to other assembly constituencies in the city. The main objective is to bring in a system of voter registration that's time-bound, transparent, citizen-friendly and near 100% accurate in urban electoral rolls by eliminating errors of omission, commission and spelling mistakes.


For the full report in the TOI, click here

I would like to believe this is actually happening, because similar initiatives pursued earlier didn't make much headway. Whatever, the team members seem to have got the focus right, now, and hopefully, we should see things fall in place soon.

 

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

not making much headway

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I had been wondering as to what kind of a progress Janaagraha's exercise, described above, had made. And, then I chanced to see this comment by a person who had initially volunteered to join the exercise:

As you might be knowing, Janaagraha has been working in Shantinagar for past few months, trying to clean up the electoral rolls. I was called by them a month ago to volunteer. I went and met the program coordinator U and also went to one of their Area Voter Mithra training session in Richmond Road.

They wanted me to work on few part numbers and co-ordinate about 20 AVMs in the Vannarapet area. I was only interested in joining someone in door2door campaign but reluctantly accepted the work. I have just been pathetic. Other than sending out a text message to AVMs offering to accompany them for door2door (to which no one responded), I have done nothing :-) I think they have given up on me now!


Janaagraha is attempting something which is atleast 100 times tougher than what Smartvote did in Koramangala 151. They are handling Forms 6, 7, 8, 8A and some more paperwork! That too in an entire assembly constituency. The people who come to become AVMs are locals, many may be committed, but I'm not sure they have any experience in what they are doing. The training itself is pathetic. Other than A and another volunteer I met, Janaagraha's paid workers do the presentations, hand out heavy bags of printed material, maps and forms. If I had taken such a bag home, I would have no clue what to with it.

Now, this is a campaign which Janaagraha is doing with the Election Commission. Unless they pull off a miracle, or I'm gullible about what goes for "success" in NGOs, I think this campaign is gonna end in disaster. But I don't think I'm in a position to go and volunteer with them now.


If any of you is interested in working on our "core competency", electoral rolls, and are not already helping Janaagraha, please do go now. I know many of you are working on the PDS project and that seems a mammoth task in itself. But I think Janaagraha's potential failure in Shantinagar will get us cold shoulders in our future attempts to work with the Election Commission.

I had myself commented that "I would like to believe this is actually happening, because similar initiatives pursued earlier didn't make much headway". Apparently, this exercise also can't be expected to make much headway. The only answer appears to be to handover the job to professional organisations like TCS, quite like the Passport Dept has successfully done (check this)
 

Muralidhar Rao
idontspam's picture

Appreciation is due

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I think we need to appreciate that they have taken on this mammoth task head on. It is important that people tackle tough issues instead of brushing it under the carpet. Success is never garunteed but you will never know unless you attempt it. Necessity is the mother of invention and like you say the task may just need recaliberation of approach in face of adversity.

murali772's picture

Perhaps, there's hope

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Within two months, “Karnataka will become the first state in the country to go online. With this, application for correction of name and age, and for addition and deletion of names from the list, can also be made online,” Karnataka’s joint chief electoral officer T Shamaiah told STOI. Microsoft Corp and Tata Consultancy Services have provided technical support to the project.

Names are a big issue in Bangalore, say election staff. “EPIC has to be in two languages. Mistakes occur when a name written in English is transcribed to Kannada, or viceversa. Bangalore has migrants, and their names are tricky to be written in two languages” Shamaiah said.


For the full report in the ToI, click here.

The voter lists have to be integrated across the country, particularly considering the high levels of job related migration in today's world. For this, the master lists in all states need necessarily to be in English. I expect the professional players on the job (unlike here) have taken cognisance of the matter and have come up with solutions that will allow for a much higher level of accuracy of the lists than obtaining presently.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

will this ever see the light of day?

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The NGO (Janagraha) then launched the Citizens Initiative of Voters’ Identification List (CIVIL) in Rajajinagar and found 51% error in the voters’ list there. “CIVIL found the rolls were done for rural India. Structurally, it wasn’t meant for urban areas. Migration to other cities and movement within the city were never taken into account. That’s when we decided the Election Commission should be involved in cleaning up the voters’ list,’’ he said.
    
Thus began the clean-up process. In 2010, EC chose Shantinagar as the pilot constituency in the country for the project. “It was a bottom-up cleaning. For 13 months, we cleaned up the list. We mapped the constituency comprising 2 lakh voters. We hit the streets to tell people that democracy is coming to their doorstep,’’ Ramesh said.
    
Now that the voters’ list is clean, it needs to be maintained that way. Janaagraha’s voter mitras will monitor the list and ask citizens to keep updating it by filling in the necessary forms. On Monday, Chief Election Commissioner of India S Y Quraishi will unveil the model framework for managing urban voters’ list.


For the full report in the ToI, click here.

We have been reading about this from well over a year now. And, going by the first hand experience of a volunteer published by me here on 23rd Dec last year, and the contents of the above report, it doesn't look like Janagraha is anywhere near solving the problem. These require professional inputs beyond the capability of an NGO kind of operation. Even the law minister, Mr R Suresh Kumar, had said as much as far back as on 30th March last year. And, subsequently, on 18th July this year, there was the talk of the involvement of Microsoft and TCS, which had revived some hope. But, now it appears we are back to square one.

India Against Corruption had declared that the next priority item on their agenda (after corruption) was electoral reforms. And, an important aspect of that is accurate voter lists. But, the way we are muddling along on this score, it doesn't look like we are going to be able to provide a level playing field, so as to afford a good candidate a fair chance to win, even by the next general elections.
   

Muralidhar Rao
n's picture

Best way is to wait for and

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Best way is to wait for and integrate into the aadhar number. Aadhar already de-duplicates and has one of the most powerful authentication available today. No need to duplicate aadhar's efforts in any other photo ID be it EPIC, passport or ration card. The EPIC will probably become redundant or can be an "extended" aadhar card with additional demographic information like ward no. etc. Aadhar will slowly become the master reference for a number of IDs and services.


n's picture

Article (from DH) portraying

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Article (from DH) portraying aadhar effort to do better than EPIC.

Learning lessons from the ‘EPIC mess’ in Bangalore, the department has drawn up a programme to conduct an intensive drive to enrol people under the Aadhaar project not only in the State capital, but across all urban centres of the State. It has planned to increase the number of enrolment centres from 133 to 1,100 in Bangalore alone. These include - both permanent and temporary centres. Besides the day centres and community centres, the department will be setting up night enrolment centres and institutional centres, including private companies, to prevent long queues and rush, Ravindran said.

Hopefully, it will be more successful especially as more service providers start demanding / accepting aadhar as proof of id.


murali772's picture

same dismal story

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Nisar Ahmed is one among lakhs of voters who has a faulty Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC), which has either mistakes in the name or sex or photograph. Nisar was issued the card 10 days ago after BBMP conducted a doorto-door campaign.
    
In the BBMP election that was held last year, Bangalore witnessed just 44% turnout where city’s 198 corporators were elected. Many voters could not vote as their names were either missing in the voters’ list at the election booths (despite having the EPIC) or names misspelt or photos mismatched in the list.
    
After the public fury and media criticism, Election Commission of India (ECI) took up the initiative to clean the voters’ list and BBMP officials made a door-to-door survey recently. Nisar was one among the many who had applied afresh during this drive, but has been given a faulty identity card once again. “I will now have to apply to get the mistakes rectified. But who do I ask? The same officials might make similar mistakes once again. Meanwhile, I will apply for Aadhaar-UID number for address-proof. Many in my locality have similar problems with the newly issued EPIC,” says Nisar.
    
Janaagraha, a city-based NGO, has signed a three-year MoU with ECI to clean up the list and bring about electoral reforms. It says that in Shanthi Nagar assembly constituency, where the project has been taken up, Volunteers (Area Voter Mitra), found that over 20,000 names had mistakes in the card and 40,000 names were of persons not living in the constituency.


For the full report in the ToI, click here

This very clearly shows that the basics have still not been put in place. And, without that, what purpose does any MOU or whatever serve? NGO's jumping into the frey, in areas where they don't have the capacity, is far too often diverting from the main objective of arriving at the right kind of solutions.

A proper analysis of the so-called poor turn out at the past Corporation elections, very clearly pointed out to the abysmally faulty electoral rolls, partly leading to the likes of Katta Jagdish (now in jail) getting elected. The way things are it is perhaps going to take a lot more time before we can hope to be represented by cleaner people.

It's time the Civil Society joined together to demand handing over the preparation and maintenance of the electoral rolls (now incorporating even the UID) to professional organisations, like say TCS, quite like the Law Minister, Mr Suresh Kumar, had stated long back (check this).

Muralidhar Rao
n's picture

And lo! This wish No need

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And lo! This wish

No need to duplicate aadhar's efforts in any other photo ID be it EPIC, passport or ration card.

has been granted.

Extracts from DH article:

These cards can be also used in the place of ration, toll and election cards, among others, resulting in lower costs for the government, as a single card could serve various purposes rather than a separate ones for each service.
The official said adults constitute approximately 65 per cent of the country's population and the government estimates that each smart card will cost about Rs 50.

Among other things, the proposed smart identity cards will carry Aadhar numbers issued by the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI), photographs, biometric data like finger prints and an iris scan of the card holder on an electronic chip.

Multi-purpose smart cards have the potential to work for several applications such as ration cards, toll cards, election cards or citizen ID cards or any application you can think of,

Spooky when govt. grants wishes this quick ;-) Or, more likely this was one part of the govt's planning from beginning. There - govt. and good planning occurred in the same sentence and can happen. Hopefully, the electronic chip will have good safeguards against hacking or other means of data stealing. Majority of the population (except actual BPL) shouldn't have any problems paying the cost for the card since it means less hassle and waste of time in the future.


murali772's picture

Crying shame

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The election identity cards have entries in both Kannada and English. "Baraha" is the software programmed to the EPIC drive in Karnataka. Officials have been finding technical errors which have not been addressed by the Chief Electoral Officer, Karnataka, despite the issue being brought to their notice. "If we type in Kannada, everything will be fine on the desktop and when we take printouts, errors will be seen. For example, if we type Inayatulla in Baraha, after taking the printouts, we see the word as Ainayatulla. The typographical errors have been occurring and we do not know how to fix them. If we key in 'I', what appears is 'Ai'. We will get to know this only after taking printouts," said an election staff member in BBMP.

For the full report in the ToI, click here.

That there was a serious issue with the trans-literation has been evident right from the very beginning. What is shocking is that none of the three agencies involved, namely CEO, NIC and BBMP, has bothered to address it so far. And, neither has Janaagraha, who have instead been undertaking laborious clean up of the voter list of one ward, under an MOU with the CEO for years together, for it to get mucked up all over again, each time a fresh entry is made.

Very clearly, besides, how can "Transposition of Entry in Electoral Rolls" (via form -18A) across states ever work when the master voter lists in each of the states are maintained in their respective languages?

With such incompetency at the very first stage of the democratic process, how can we ever expect to get better quality of people to represent us? What a crying shame? How can we have any pride in calling ourselves a democracy?

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

how long more can this go on?

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Ever wondered why there are so many errors in voter identity cards? Due to acute shortage of computers and manpower in BBMP to carry out data entry work on electoral photo identity cards, officials are outsourcing the work to unemployed youths in local wards. The data entry has been going on - not always in government offices, but in cyber cafes .

You find mistakes in the voter identity cards as changes have been undertaken by unskilled youths who have been randomly hired by the BBMP staff .

"BBMP is aware that computers used in cyber cafes by unskilled youngsters have led to mistakes and leakage of data, but such usage has become inevitable due to shortage of computers. Each assembly constituency has been given one computer and one scanner. There will be minimum 240 parts in each constituency and we get about 200 applications from each part when we conduct EPIC drive," said BBMP officials - a ward is sub-divided into many parts.


And, this is the Commissioner's comment: "This has not been brought to my notice so far. How can the election work be done in some cyber cafe? If officials faced shortage of infrastructure, they should have informed me. EPIC drive has been there for years. How come officials complain about software now? I find it absurd. I will look into the issue. Electionrelated work is an additional work but we have no choice and there are no short cuts."

For the full report in the ToI, click here.

Is it any surprise that we are a totally disfunctional democracy, when at the very first stage of the democratic process itself, there is such incompetency? Very clearly, entrusting of the preparation and maintenance of the voters' lists to professional agencies like, say TCS, as suggested by none other than the Law minister Mr Suresh Kumar himself (check this), has been long overdue.

Muralidhar Rao
idontspam's picture

Beck & Call services

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It is the same with garbage, BBMP want to clear it themselves so they will have the garbage trucks blocking the roads to haul trash, cleaning of roads etc during office peak hours, when their workers clock in to work at their leisure. I have seen the veolias of the world hauling trash in other indian cities at the unearthly hours of 3AM so the city is clean & interruption free when everyone wakes up.

Its the same with this festival season where trash is lying uncollected all over the city and the ministers have rerouted all the workers to beautify the metro stretch. If an agency was given the trash handling mechanism I am sure they will refuse to do these special "beck & call" services ignoring their contractual obligations. 

murali772's picture

it's the same story all over again!

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The BBMP bypoll to Gandhinagar ward was marred by complaints of a large number of names missing from the voters’ list. By failing to ensure an updated list of voters, the government is giving citizens more reason to become more cynical about the election process. This will only lead to poorer voter turnout.

For the full report in the ToI, click here.

Well, actually, how can it be any different when the diagnosis of the problem itself is faulty to begin with?

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

mission impossible

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VS Sampath, Election Commissioner of India, said it’s the enrollment of youth that’s causing anxiety to the Election Commission. “Only 25% of young voters in the age group of 18 and 19 years were enrolled last year. That’s why we started a special drive in educational institutions during National Voters’ Day. In most states, it has now become 50%. In Himachal Pradesh, it’s 90% and in Karnataka, it’s 85%. But it should become 100%,” said Sampath.

CS Suranjana, CEC, Karnataka, said people should cooperate with booth-level officers during the special drive of revising the electoral rolls. “For those techies and others who may not find time to register themselves on week days, we’ll organize a new initiative called ‘Meet the Voter’ programme every Sunday in each ward. Bangalore being the IT capital must have 100% fault-free voters’ list,” he said.


For the full report in the ToI, click here.

How can we have a fault-free list without attending to this critical trans-literation issue? It's shocking that such a fundamental matter has not received the necessary attention of the agencies involved, including Janaagraha.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Commander's blogs

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The following are the extracts from Cdr P G Bhat's blog. Cdr Bhat incidentally was the 'commander' of the SmartVote team that extracted the voters' lists from the SEC site and published them on their site, in the process revealing to the public their total incapacity and incompetence in carrying out the job, cited in the media reports in the opening post, above.

Blog dt 02/07/12 (full blog may be accessed here):
Dr Balu told in a talk yesterday that denial of opportunity to a citizen is a crime. Here the EC is denying a large percentage of our population their right to vote, by being non-professional and callous. By making it difficult to access, sort and filter the data, the EC is denying information to those who do not know how to extract information from the current mess.

Blog dt 30/06/12 (full blog may be accessed here):
On 19 June a tech savvy expert deputy of the CEO, in the presence of ten people, searches for the real Suranjan in CEO’S website. Other deputies help him with suggestions. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not find the person hidden in the lists his organisation has created for public consumption. “The name certainly is in the list,” says the CEO.

Blog dt 15/06/12 (full blog may be accessed here):
On 10 April 2010 I presented the issues in National Conference of Association for Democratic Reforms held at Bhopal, suggesting some solutions. The conference was attended by many officials from Election Commission, including Mr. Chawla, the CEC. After my presentation, several people from the audience discussed the situation with me and some officials promised action. Inaction?

Dr. Meenakshi Bharath organised a few meetings with CEO and SEO of Karnataka where we demonstrated blatant problems in the process of creating and maintaining the voter list and suggested approaches to improve the situation. We were told that the Election Commission was aware of all our observations and were already doing whatever we suggested. We were to have a error-free, bullet proof, shining voter list by August 2010. We also tried in vain to meet the CEC team when they visited Bangalore in late 2010.


Apparently, very little has changed since. And, it is not as if the matter has not come to their notice. But, for reasons that can only be speculated upon, they seem to be refusing to effect the necessary correctives. Shouldn't the Civil Society join together to address and set right this problem as a priority, well before the impending state assembly elections, with a view to getting a better set of people to represent them?

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

unresponsive CEC

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I mailed as below to CEC, Dr S Y Quraishi, IAS (syquraishi@eci.gov.in), on Feb 27.

Dear Dr Quraishi

Ever since I saw your interview on NDTV by Ms Sonia Singh, a few months back, I have been meaning to write to you. Now, again with the Gandhinagar (Bangalore) election recording a very poor voter turnout, I was meminded of my resolve, and hence this letter. All I am requesting you is to go through this blogpost, and see if it makes sense. And, if it does, issue necessary correctives.

Regards, Muralidhar Rao, President, PRAJA-RAAG


Further, I sent reminders on Mar 15, Mar 26, May 17. None of the mails bounced; but, all met with stony silence. Even with knowing what the problem was, as also its enormity, he refused to effect the necessary correctives. One wonders why.

Dr Quraishi has since retired. His name came up as one of the probables for Presidentship even. I am sure he will be assigned some cushy sinecure soon - totally undeserving, though, if you ask me. Well, he is not the first, right?

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

have started an e-petition

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I have started an e-petition addressed to the President of India to "professionalise the preparation and maintenance of voters' lists". To read the petition, and endorese if in agreement, click here.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

response to point made by Comdr P G Bhat

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Thanks for this effort, Murali.

Voter rolls in neighboring states are far better. As a sample, I have analysed 357 lists of Malkajgiri constituency in AP. They are of higher quality than the 6,389 lists of Karnataka which I studied.

More importantly, I suspect indiscriminate deletions while leaving blatant duplicate entries intact. Without privileged access and sitting at home, we can find thousands of duplicate entries. If we analyse deeper and verify, there could be lakhs of duplicate entries as well as lakhs of people excluded by deletions. .

To begin with Commander, it's your persistant efforts and the lackadaisical responses to them from the powers that be, that made me start this petition

The accuracy may be better in AP. In fact, I am told it's really good in Himachal. But, if somebody from Bangalore takes a transfer to Hyderabad, or Shimla, have they facilitated the transfer process to enable him to exercise his franchise on the 181st day of his settling in these cities? I very much doubt it. And, that kind of a facilitation cannot be done by a set of amateurs. That's where professional players come in. Today's papers inform that India Post has similarly teamed up with Infosys to provide a set of services. Plainly these kinds of things cannot be entrusted to companies floated by the likes of Katta Subramania Naidu's son, which is unfortunately what is happening today.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

latest on offer from CEO - sex change!

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2,877 voters have changed their sex in the records.

For the full text of the write-up by Cdr Bhat, click here

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

NRI's better off?

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Non-resident Malayalis have emerged as the most enthusiastic group about elections in India, with close to 10,000 registering themselves with the Election Commission after the government decided to give voting rights to NRIs. - - - Since the government allowed overseas Indians to register with the EC to take part in assembly elections last year, not a single vote was cast in four of the five states that went to polls this year — Punjab, UP, Uttarakhand, and Manipur. In Goa, a lone NRI cast his vote. - - - Last year, one person registered his name in the electoral list and also voted in the West Bengal assembly polls.

For the full text of the report in the ToI, click here.

Well, this is indeed surprising. So, does it mean that, for this limited purpose, the EC and the SEC's are able to get their act together? But, whatever, except perhaps for Kerala, NRI's form a miniscule percentage of the electorate. And, for the RI's the EC, SEC, CEO lot just seem unable to get their act in place. So, let's keep up the demand for professionalisation of the process, this way

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

TV-9 Discussion on the abysmal state of Electoral Rolls

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The discussions uploaded on "youtube" may be accessed here. It is a 1-hr discussion, and brings out clearly the justification for the title I have given for this blog. But, most surprisingly, none of the participants in the debate talked about the need for engaging a professional agency like, say Infosys (who currently do the entire back-end work in Income Tax returns processing), to undertake the back-end work involved, though most of them have signed my petition, to the President of India, (accessible here) demanding that.

A point was made by Prof Trilochan Shastri about Gujarat having achieved a fair degree of accuracy in their listings. But, without there being a single agency undertaking the job across all states, I wonder how transfers across states can be effected, a point I had made earlier also with reference to some similar comments about Himachal (check my comment of 10th Aug, above).

The other point Prof Shastri made about the need for a paradigm shift in the approach, whereby you get people to register themselves at Post Offices, and such other public offices, instead of going door-to-door to enlist them, is very valid, and is in fact the only way to go about it.

Well, if you engage a professional agency, they will think through all these issues, facilitate whatever is required, and go on improving too. I am more and more convinced that that is the only way to go. So, can I expect everyone to join in in the effort?

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

How is it going to help?

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The Karnataka high court on Tuesday ordered notices to be issued to the Election Commission of India, chief electoral officer of Karnataka and the BBMP on a PIL relating to revision of electoral rolls. - - - - The petitioners have sought for a direction to the authorities to undertake an intensive revision of the electoral rolls and complete it within three months from the date of commencement.

For the full report in the ToI, click here.

The question that begs an answer is how can the present machinery, which does not have the capacity to undertake the task, resulting in highly faulty voter lists, revisions after revisions, expected to do any better with a fresh exercise?

Besides, unless you have a centralised agency undertaking the work across the country, how can transpositions (using Form-8A) between states, work?

Very plainly, therefore, should not the petition have also prayed for engaging of a professional agency, like say TCS (who have been engaged by the Passport Department for all back-end operations) to undertake the job of compilation and maintenance of the voter lists across the country? Incidentally, that is what this on-line petition is all about.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

What is CMC Ltd's role?

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I met Comdr Bhat, one of the signatories to the PIL relating to revision of electoral rolls, recently, and got to asking him why he hadn't also demanded that the preparation and maintenance of the electoral rolls be outsourced to a professional agency. His response was that it was already supposed to be outsourced to CMC Ltd, which is now a TATA company.

So, I managed to get access to the MD of the company, and asked him if indeed there was a tie-up, and if so, why are things in this shape. He responded promptly saying "will address the same at the earliest". That was on Sept 4th, and even after some four reminders since then, he has strangely been silent.

So, yesterday, I sent out an RTI query, addressed to the Election Commission of India, New Delhi, reading as below:

It is believed that you have a tie-up with CMC Ltd for providing technical services, the same extending even to the state election commissions. Please provide an outline of the tie-up, covering specifically matters like scope of the contract, value (billings) over the past three years, validity period, etc.

Let me see where it'll take me.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

the bigger problem

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The urban middle class respects institutions, lives by systems and thrives in an environment governed by equality and the rule of law. The politician, on the other hand, has, over the years, subverted various institutions and made a mockery of the law. There is little meeting ground between the two. And that is at the root of this clash. It didn’t matter earlier. Empirical evidence suggests that only 15% of the urban middle/upper class votes. But that could change.

Those of you who are old enough, look back at the decades gone by. Those who haven’t lived through those decades, ask your elders. The crowds at rallies in earlier decades comprised almost entirely of people carted in by the truckloads by political parties. They applauded on cue, booed on call and were available for any cause that caught their leaders’ fancy. But the crowds at last month’s protests in the Capital were different. They assembled not because of they were mobilised by professional political activists but because they agreed with what some amateur social activist had posted on Twitter and/or Facebook. It was the clarion call of their conscience and outrage at uncaring authorities that brought them out. They are the children of economic liberalisation — 24/7 news channels have made the constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of expression a reality for them; cheap telephones have made distances irrelevant; and affordable internet and the mushrooming of social media have made political clarion calls unnecessary.


More than 200 of the 543 parliamentary seats that will be up for grabs in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections will be urban ones. If one party or formation can sweep these, winning, say 140-150 of them, it will give itself a very good shot at grabbing power in Delhi. But there’s one problem. This amorphous group still doesn’t have a leader.

For the full essay in the Hindustan Times, click here.

Actually, there is an even bigger problem - the incompetence, incapacity, apathy, lack of accountability, all put together of the EC/ SEC/ NIC combo, in the preparation and maintenance of the voters' lists, that has resulted in the non-enfranchisement of vast sections of the youth, at least in Bangalore.

This was clearly what I realised when I wanted to contest for the BBMP elections, because of which I had to just give up. And, the situation hasn't changed any since then.

And, if it is true of Bangalore, I expect the situation can't be any better in other parts of the country, either. As such, all of the anger amongst the middle class, particularly the youth, will be in vain if this situation is not remedied. The answer to that lies plainly in outsourcing the job to professional organisations like TCS or Infosys, one of whom is currently doing the back-end work for the Passport dept, and the other for the Income Tax dept. To add your voice to that demand, click here.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

measuring up

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In my post of 20th Dec (above), I had stated that I had sent an RTI query to the EC requesting for information as below:

It is believed that you have a tie-up with CMC Ltd for providing technical services, the same extending even to the state election commissions. Please provide an outline of the tie-up, covering specifically matters like scope of the contract, value (billings) over the past three years, validity period, etc.

Around 20 th Jan, I received a letter from Mr T C Kom, Under Secretary & CPIO, office of the EC, returning the Rs 10/- Postal Order that I had sent, stating that it is "about two years old and invalid", with a request to send a fresh postal order. The postal order was issued to me by the Koramangala PO on 08/02/11, and on verifying with the Post Master, he stated clearly that postal orders are valid for 24 months from the date of issue, meaning the postal order that I had sent was valid even on the date on which Mr Kom had sent me his letter returning the postal order. While joining issue with him on this, I have anyway sent a fresh postal order today, in order not to dalay the receipt of the information I had sought any longer.

They indeed seem to be measuring up to each of the adjectives I had used in describing their whole attitude in the title of this blog.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

victim of political correctness?

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At long last, I finally got the set of 35 pages of documents, dt 27/03/98, outlining the MOU between Election Commission of India and CMC Ltd, under RTI. Well, as expected, it does not cover the most critical function of "preparation and maintenance of the voters' list". And, as long as that function remains in the hands of the EC/ SEC/ NIC trio, who just don't have the capacity to handle it, we will continue to have highly inaccurate voter lists, undermining our democratic process at the beginning stage itself.

The job has plainly to be outsourced to a professional set up like TCS, Infosys, or even CMC. Now, while the political parties perhaps consider it "politically incorrect" to suggest outsourcing, I had thought the Civil Society groups would not be constrained by such mind-sets. Apparently, I was wrong, and most are indeed driven by political correctness rather than by overall correctness. Why else would they want to persist with the trio, inspite of their proving themselves incapable, repeatedly?

Our democracy has perhaps a long way to go before it can be called mature.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

just a lot of hot air!

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BBMP commissioner Siddaiah told reporters on Wednesday that physical verification would be carried out by the electoral authorities before the EPIC cards are issued. He said booth-level officers or other authorized officers will hand over the cards to those who have freshly registered, at their doorstep.

For the full report in the ToI, click here.

In a box item, titled 'expert speak', below the same article, Mr Ramesh Ramanathan has been quoted as below:
"The devil is in the details. We took years to device proper urban electoral rolls where we verify the rolls by every polling part. Each constituency has 200 polling parts and the city has about 500 parts. It's not an easy task for any DEO to verify this entire list, unless there is a proper system in place and updation is done as a constant process. How can we verify the claim of 65% EP (electoral population) ratio?"

Between all of EC, SEC, NIC, BBMP, Janaagraha, SmartVote, and the many others that have battled with the voter lists, what we have, and what we will have (as on 5th May '13 - the assembly election date), will be lists that can at best claim a 25% EP ratio, particularly in constituencies where there are a number of newly domiciled Bangaloreans (by EP, I expect, what is meant is the ratio between the "number of people on the voters' list" to the "number of people eligible to be on the list", for any given constituency). I am terming them Bangaloreans, since by EC definition, anybody who has been domiciled at a given address for more than 180 days, is eligible to be enrolled in the voters' list in the constituency covering the address. But, the unfortunate part is that the process of getting on to the list is so cumbersome and unfriendly that most people give up half way, or don't even bother to attempt.

And, if you are already on the voters' list, say in Pune, and you have now taken a transfer to Bangalore, been here for 181 days, and want to effect the transfer through the 'Form 8A process', just forget it, since there is no mechanism to work it.

And, as for the regualar Namma Bangaloreans, who have been here their lifetime, I'll bet if even one can show a fully correct entry in his name. Very much as Ramesh Ramanathan has stated "unless there is a proper system in place and updation is done as a constant process", which can be done only by a professional agency, like say TCS (which is today doing all the back-end work related to Passport, or Infosys, which is doing similar work for Income Tax), Mr Siddaiah's kind of talk will just amount to a lot of hot air.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

good enough? - I don't think so.

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The total number of voters in Bangalore urban district, including BBMP limits, is 70,32,000. This is equal to 67.58 percent Electoral Population (EP) ratio. On April 7, the closing day of voters' registration it was 65.19.

"Before summary revision of the voters' list (during January), the voter population was 57 lakh. After the electoral registration drive, it became 64.42 lakh. With the announcement of election, once again voter's registration drive was conducted in IT companies, colleges, public places and now we have crossed 70 lakh. Every eligible voter is included in the voters' list," said Siddaiah. As per statistics, the EP ratio is the highest in Bangalore, across the country.
 
For the full report in the ToI, click here.
 
The info furninshed by the SEC, BBMP combo on these matters, in the past, have generally been found unreliable, and consequently, one can't quite be too sure about these too. Besides, the last time around, SmartVote had pulled out the details from the SEC site and found pages after pages being repeated in different constituencies, perhaps to jack up the numbers. This time around, the SEC has made its data more secure, which SmartVote is yet to crack, and therefore we don't know if they have adopted the same "technique" to jack up the numbers.
 
Further, the question of correctness of the new entries, we will know only after they are made accessible, which, if I undersatnd correctly, is yet to happen.
 
Well, even granting that the numbers are correct, the questions that remain are:
1) Shouldn't the facility of registration as a voter be available right through the year, so that when a person attains the age of 18, and has resided at a location for 6 months, he/ she is readily able to get onto the list?
2) Is transposition of voters (using Form-8A) available across states? If not, what is the procedure to be adopted when a registered voter shifts to a different state? If yes, how can it work when the master voter lists are apparently maintained in regional languages?
3) What about the spelling, age, sex and other errors, which when attempting to correct through Form-6A, end up generating a fresh set of errors?
4) What about the differences in the entries between the list and the EPIC?
All in all, should not this all important job, which is fundamental to the country's democratic functioning, be done by professionals, rather than a set of part-timers? Can the country afford to work with such shoddy voters' lists? The back-end work of the passport department is today being done by TCS; similar is the arrangement between Income Tax dept and Infosys. When that is the case, isn't it time this job (of preparing and maintaining the voters' list) is also outsourced to similar organisations? 
Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Capacity issue to the fore, again and again

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Missing names despite a valid EPIC issued by none less than the Election Commission of India is perhaps nothing new to Bangalore.For a city that boasts of being the tech capital of the country,election after election,lakhs of eligible voters in the city go back home without exercising their franchise simply because the voters list has not been cleaned up. - - - Its not about voters apathy.Bangaloreans want to vote but the system has failed them. - - For years,the voters list has been messed up and the change cannot happen in 30 days, says Ramanathan. For the full report in the ToI, click here.

The voter turnout in Sunday's assembly election in the IT city has been a not-so-encouraging 42% notwithstanding concerted efforts by various government agencies as well as civil society bodies like the Bangalore Political Action Committee (B.PAC) to spur voter participation. Says urban expert Vivek Menon: "How has the BBMP recklessly deleted names My brother and my mother's names were deleted from the list without cross-checking in areas where they reside,"said Menon. Former bureaucrat K Jairaj,who is associated with the B.PAC,said: "I am highly disappointed.The B.PAC campaign has had limited impact.We will start creating and spreading awareness among voters for the coming parliamentary elections, said Jairaj. Prithvi Reddy,also associated with B.PAC,said there could have been at least 10 per cent rise in turnout over the previous election,had these discrepancies not set in."Names of many genuine voters were deleted. For the full text of this report in the ToI, click here.

In spite of the issue cropping up repeatedly, time after time, election after election, these worthies don't quite seem to appreciate that the EC/ SEC/ BBMP/ NIC combo have serious capacity limitations, and consequently, the job has to be outsourced to professionals, quite like Passport and Income Tax departments have done for their back-end work. And, in all of these the ones who lose out are the likes of Meenakshi Bharath, and Dr Ashwin Mahesh. Will the worthies atleast now get out of their mind-sets, and press for immediate professionalisation of the "compilation and maintenance of voter lists", so that at least in the ensuing Parliamentary elections, the likes of MB and AM stand a better chance?

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

'authorities' don't have the answer

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In the release, T V Mohandas Pai, vice-president, B.PAC, said that inconsistent electoral lists had prevented many registered voters from exercising their franchise. “These barriers that prevent people from participating in a more inclusive and engaged democratic process must be removed. I appeal to the authorities to urgently address this issue”.

For the full report in the New Indian Express, click here.

The 'authorities' don't have the capacity, and can't build it either. So, the answer is staring in the face - outsource it to professionals.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Silicon Valley's shame

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The CEO's web resources are dysfunctional and are a shame, given they are in India's Silicon Valley! - See more at: http://www.koramangalaonline.com/article/are-you-still-registered-voter#sthash.xxVFaAHI.dpuf

The situation has not changed one bit, and will not change either, unless the job of compiling and maintenaning of voters' lists is outsourced to professionals. I don't quite understand why civil society leading lights refuse to demand that even knowing fully well that the entire democratic process is getting undermined at the first stage itself because that hasn't happened.

Muralidhar Rao
Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

Electoral Rolls - Mother of all frauds

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This is what the Media dubbed the Electoral List as,  in 2005.  I still recollect how Dr.Meenakshi, myself and a few volunteers/citizens went door to door in Ist R Block, Rajajinagar to update/correct/prove that the voters list is not totally correct, how we succeeded in pointing out nearly 50 per cent mistakes through Vote India Movement of which Janaagraha Ramesh Ramanathan, Lok Satta JP and others were joined hands with a prog called CIVLC (Citizen Initiative for Voters List Correction), how we invited the then EC Mr.Krishnamurthy who came to Ist R.Block, randomly checked, found large scale mistakes and directed the then SEC Mr.Abhijit Das Gupta to effect corrective measures.

@ Murali Sir, excuse me, outsourcing preparation of electoral list is not legally permissible.  There is no question of third party intervention under the Electoral Rules - voter and the election  commission are the direct players.  May be UID Aadhaar can help in improving the voting pattern with foolproof biometric entities; but it is a long way. When it happens, it may herald a new era of majority voters rule and also ensure better democracy.

Please browse some of the websites created by Government departments through outsourcing by paying huge public money - most of them are pathetically outdated in their static content and updation; AMCs are highly uneconomical and there is no transparency and accountability in awarding such outsourcing.  While back end operation is without proper firewalls/iron-walls for protecting the sites from hacking.

We need to create awareness in the minds of the people to get themselves registered as voters, check the electoral list when published, ensure their names and get voter IDs (EPIC) well in advance and make it a point to go and vote on the date of elections.  This is the only way we can improve our democracy for a majority voters rule and to get rid of the first past the post syndrome with minority voters. 

UID Aadhaar can play a vital role in ensuring bio-metric voting pattern - vote from where you are for eliminating the evils of democracy and for ensuring maority voters rule in India.  We have challenges ahead. 

  

murali772's picture

please demand change of laws, then!

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@ Murali Sir, excuse me, outsourcing preparation of electoral list is not legally permissible.

When the back-end work of the Passport department is being done by TCS today, and similarly of the Income Tax by Infosys, is it that the preparation and maintenance of the electoral roles is so sensitive that it should be done only internally?

Besides, here's how the UK goes about things when a foreigner applies for a visa. And, here's what none less than the the former Law Minister, S Suresh Kumar (amongst the most respectable of ministers in the BJP govt) has had to say on the subject.

So, if the present laws don't permit outsourcing of the work, please demand change of the laws. The country can't afford the shoddy system any longer.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

afraid of using P/O - words?

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Conducting elections is a one-time exercise but maintaining voter lists is a continuous process. Relying on the state machinery to do that is very difficult because they have other obligations. A state government teacher can’t leave her job and update lists, neither is there any incentive for them to do so. With lakhs of people migrating to cities every year, it would be a big challenge for the backend machinery to handle this kind of work.

How can the system be improved? There is an urgent need for a national voter database. More technology like spatial maps — in which each polling booth is digitally marked — can be used to make the process of verification faster. The EC should have greater budgetary allocation so that it can have more permanent staff.

The above are the excerpts from an interview of R Ramnathan (Janaagraha), published in the ToI. For the full text, click here.

I am surprised, to say the least, that it has taken so long for a Mr Ramnathan to say this much even. But, the even more surprising is his suggestion of equipping the EC sufficiently to undertake the back-end work, even as the Passport Dept, Income Tax, Visa processing cells of foreign embassies, etc have found it far more reliable, practical, cost effective, and more, to outsource the job to professional organisations like TCS, Infosys, etc.

Is it because Mr Ramnathan too wants to be politically correct and not use the P/O (privatisation/ outsourcing) - words?

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Is it any surprise?

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The Lok Sabha elections will see a mere 8.04 lakh new eligible voters aged between 18 and 19 from Karnataka. That's 1.8% of the state's electorate, the lowest, along with Kerala, in south India. Karnataka's poor showing flies in the face of the belief that it's a state with a high concentration of youth.

For the full report in the ToI, click here.

Not surprising at all, given the total unfriendliness of the current process of getting onto the list! And, the answer - professionalisation of compilation and maintenance of voter lists - has been staring in everyone's face from times immemorial; but they refuse to see it.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

How long to tolerate this mediocrity?

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With about a fortnight left for the Lok Sabha elections, goof-ups in data consolidation by the state and central election offices have left the officials with two different sets of data for number of registered voters across categories. More than 5,000 voters from the ‘Others’ category have disappeared from the state electoral rolls. Officials blame this on duplication and error in the counting process itself. Either ways, the Election Commission (EC) has 8,453 people in the ‘Others’ category on its rolls, while the state has just 3,957. Officials are now scrambling to fix the error in order to ascertain the exact number of voters for the April 17 polls. - - - -He claimed that the CEO Karnataka data was accurate and that the entry of data at the polling station-levels may have cumulated into a bloated figure due to programming errors. “Entering data for the electoral rolls is done by us. But there were programming problems because of which the addition was not done properly. It is not a human error,” he said.

For the full report in the New Indian Express, click here.

How long do we have to live with this mediocrity in the very first step of our democratic process? Isn't it obvious that between the EC, SEC and BBMP, they can't ever get down to giving us a voter list of a reasonable level of accurcacy, and deriving from that, isn't it obvious that the entire job of preparation and maintenance of voters' list has to be outsourced to professional outfits?

Even as I was composing this post, a political activist friend called to ask what to do when a name is found to be missing from the list, at this stage. I said that very little can be done about it as far as this election is concerned. The person whose name is missing will very likely have to go through the process of filing Form-6, all over again, after the elections.

I also added that the position has been this way from the very beginning, and neither the political parties nor the Civil Society seem too keen to bring about effective change. The activist friend was livid.

Well, I would like to believe that I have one more person beginning to talk my language.
 

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Come on, Sir - give us a break!

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Karnataka's electoral rolls have always been a problem because of the dynamic and migrant population, especially the IT crowd. In fact, there was tremendous pressure on the EC to postpone Karnataka assembly elections in 2008 because electoral lists weren't ready. We declined, saying electoral lists are dynamic; there cannot be a finality to them. The lists are a lot better now compared with what they were five to six years ago.

Flawed electoral lists are characteristic of metros such as Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. Voters also have a duty to find out if their names are on the rolls. There is no point waking up at the last minute and flooding the EC with applications.


For the full text of the interview of Mr SY Quraishi, former CEC, in the ToI, click here

Neither is Mr Deepak Parekh in Mumbai a migrant, nor my son's father-in-law in Bengaluru, both of whom have been living at their current addresses for years together, and voting in all of the past elections too, but who found their names deleted this time aroound. And, there are plenty like them. So, Mr Quraishi needs to come up with something better if he wants to cover up for the incapacity of his ex-colleagues.

The whole approach and processing have to be re-visited, by professionals, and the maintenance too has to be by professionals. And, being the first step in the democratic process, its importance is paramount.

Muralidhar Rao
Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

Yes, 'approach and processing' are being revisited at back-end.

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Some processes are under way albeit at back end.  Extract of my mail to Mr.Neelekani and his reply both dated 7-1-2010 appear relevant here as also my article in KAARANJI (1-15 Jan.2010 issue) link that demands Electoral Reforms and 'Vote from Where You Are' proposal with bio-metric affirmations, shell based firewalls, multi-level password protections with public and private key operations for securing the data bases and putting IT into a major player for ensuring better governance, transparency and accountability.  

=========

Dear Nandan,

Trust this finds you in the best of health and cheers.

Afraid of Electoral Reforms?  

http://www.kaaranji.com/jan2010_1/index.htm; English pages –

xxx  xxx  It is an article that includes a point as to whether UID can help increase voting from 'where you are' (a.ka.a - ATM) for participatory democracy and for majority voters rule. Kindly have a look and your considered views will be appreciated.

With warm regards

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath

7-1-2010

 ---------------

Dear Vasanthkumar,

                                          Thank you for your article. UID can certainly be used for election purposes and ultimately for remote voting over Internet etc. I feel however that this may come at a later stage in the UID deployment.

Warm Regards,

Nandan

7-1-2010

===============

After the GE 2014 elections, we may consider creating a pressure group for ushering in the changes of 'Giving a Break - revisiting approach and processes' for better democratic governance, as you have pointed out.

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath

murali772's picture

quarter-baked approaches largely to blame

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Of all electoral reform agendas in India, quality of voter lists is arguably the most neglected. Unjustified deletions of voter names in Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur and Varanasi and the consequent public interest litigation in the Bombay high court have brought the issue into focus temporarily.

However, stakeholders across a wide spectrum, including polling agencies, psephologists, civil society and the Election Commission itself, have not yet gauged the extent to which poor quality voter lists may be systematically undermining the quality of electoral outcomes in India.

Bangalore-based nonprofit Janaagraha has been working on improving voter list management for close to a decade. A proper urban electoral (PURE) list survey carried out ahead of the Delhi assembly elections in 2013 had revealed average error rates of 20%.

- -  Our ongoing research indicates that voter lists in several cities and constituencies are so poor that accurate polling part maps are not available and addresses in voter lists are incomplete, seriously hindering even an evaluation of the quality of voter lists.


The emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party has added to number of constituencies witnessing tight contests and narrow margins of victory. If, on the one hand, margins of victory are thin, and on the other, voter lists have high error rates, there is no assurance that electoral outcomes are legitimate and reflect popular choice.

Secondly, voter turnout reported from cities is probably understated and therefore voter apathy in cities could be a myth. - - - Voter turnout in a democracy is an important signal to all stakeholders — voters and civil society, political parties, psephologists, researchers and EC — and a misstated voter turnout could lead to several wrong conclusions and policy decisions.


Clearly then, voter list management in Indian cities needs serious systemic reform . The process is currently characterized by poor mapping of polling part boundaries, incomplete addresses , lack of a sufficiently sophisticated, integrated and open database, temporary staffing and poor incentivization for updating voter lists.

Reforms targeted at precisely these five factors are needed to establish the integrity of voter lists, especially in Indian cities where flux in voting populations is high and rising. Reforms, however, will begin only with an acknowledgement of their need.

The recognition of voter lists as a high-priority reform agenda will mark an inflection point in the maturing of Indian democracy.

The last couple of decades since the Seshan era have seen much needed supplyside electoral reforms led by EC and the judiciary — near elimination of booth capturing , regulation of money and crime in politics, introduction of EVMs and the NOTA option, all of which focused primarily on candidates
.

For the full text of the column by Srikanth Viswanathan in the ToI, click here.

A large part of the blame for this state of affairs remaining so from long is to be borne by the Civil Society organisations in the picture, who have gone about conveying the impression that they can manage all that is required for compiling accurate voter lists, and thereafter maintaining them, through their quarter-baked approaches.  It's high time the job is made over to professional companies.
 

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

It's the same story, all over again

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Cdr P G Bhat, the well-meaning crusader for more accurate electoral rolls, has, like at every election for nearly a decade, once again tried to bring to the attention of the EC, SEC, BBMP combo, in charge of preparing the list, the very many anomalies in it, both old and new. And, like always, he kept the public informed too, through his posts on various google-groups, the latest of which reads as below:

Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka (CEO-KA) has published the list of applications for inclusion in the electoral rolls. 3,66,640 of 4,65,377 applications are approved. However, a search for voter names (with relative names) as given in the list show that more than 99% of these names are not added to the voter list for the forthcoming BBMP elections. Either the citizens are not included as voters though their applications are shown approved or the names are entered differently from what is shown in the approved list.

Of 58,097 applications for deletion of names from voter lists, 44,730 are approved. Sample checks with EPIC numbers show that none of these records is deleted.

After the elections the authorities will put blame on voter apathy for poor turnout.


Election after election it's the same story, proving very clearly that the EC, SEC, BBMP combo don't have the capacity (nor can they build the capacity) to compile and maintain the voters' list to any reasonable degree of accuracy, as was stated in the opening post in this blog, way back in 2010. It was also stated that the only answer lay in outsourcing of the job to reputed professional agencies, quite like Passport office, Income Tax dept, and others have already done, benefiting all the stake-holders involved.

Apparently, the citizens are still to wake up to this reality, and very obviously, there's no redemption till that happens and the demand arises for professionalisation of the job.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

With Aadhaar option out, professional tie-up now imperative

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The Election Commission has suspended its five-month-old project to clean the electoral rolls by linking and authenticating voter I-card details with Aadhaar data, days after the Supreme Court ruled that the unique identification number could be used only for PDS and LPG distribution schemes.

For the full text of the report in the ToI, click here.

Apparently, the EC was banking on Aadhaar to straighten out its otherwise largely inaccurate voter lists, as also to integrate it across the country. Now that the SC has closed that option, and the present team up with NIC doesn't appear to have the capacity to udertake the task, it's perhaps time they looked for a more professional organisation to team up with.

The country cannot afford to continue with the far from accurate voter lists they have been churning out, election after election, and the distortion caused to the electoral process thereof.

Muralidhar Rao
Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

P/O is not within the ambit of Election Rules.

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@ Murali sir,

Electoral Rolls are privy to ECI under the provisions of the Constitution of India. If P/O is proposed, then we need amendments.  P/O to correct the 'mother of all frauds - the electoral rolls' - may result in outgo of sizeable public money to private players and eventual kick backs resulting in 'mother of all frauds-kick backs'.

Best solution would be for people to become a little more responsible and take initiative to create a near accurate voters lists by registering themselves in form-6 if they are first time voters and use other forms to get their names transpositioned if they have moved out (Bengaluru is a city of non-voters) from the constituencies where they are registered voters.

Another solution is to make voting compulsory (Dandam dashagunam bhaveti?).

I have sent a separate mail to Mr.Murali about how NGO initiatives for improving the mother of all frauds - the electoral rolls -  have worked wonders.

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath 

Convener, Voters Awareness Movement (VAM)

 . 

murali772's picture

the unaffordable cost

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@ Mysoremath saahibare' - Please read my post of 15th May, 2014 (scrolling above). Let me not have to repeat it all over again. Janaagraha had been at it from donkey's years, with money from Tata Tea (Jaago Re' campaign), and before that from World Bank (if I recall right, and for diverting some of which for other purposes, they were roundly criticised by other NGOs in Bangalore too). You don't hear much from them on the subject now. Then there has been Commander Bhat, and SmartVote, of which the Commander continues even now. But, all to no avail. The very same problems you had almost a decade back, you have even now. There's been not been one bit of improvement, and there will not be too, since they don't have the capacity to undertake it, and they don't even have the capacity to acquire the capacity to undertake it. The answer very simply lies in engaging professionals to undertake it, as even former Minister, Mr Suresh Kumar, has clearly stated (check my post of 1th Sept, 2013 - scrolling above).

And, have you heard of any scam in the engagement of TCS by Passport Dept, or in the engagement of Infosys by Income Tax? So, what is this phobia over engaging professionals? All you are doing by this kind of talk of yours is providing alibi's and excuses to the agencies involved to perpetuate the status quo, quite like this Mr Anand, who was a panelist along-with me, in a News-9 debate on the issue last week - accessible here.

Also, like I have stated right in the beginning, there's no cost higher for a democracy than having a less than 90% accurate voter list.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

long overdue reform

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From panchayat elections to Lok Sabha polls, there should be a common electoral roll, a Parliamentary committee has recommended, saying it will help weed out duplicate voters and bring down cost of holding the democratic exercise.

The Committee feels that a common electoral roll will reduce cost, time, and check electoral malpractices in the country.

- - - While Election Commission is entrusted with the task of holding Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, the State Election Commissions supervise elections to local bodies.

Interestingly, it was the Commission which had earlier raised the issue to have common electoral rolls. - - - The Election Commission had maintained that a single electoral roll "will be a huge national saving" and it will not pose any problems to the electoral machinery on the field as it is the same at the ground level.

"This may need some minor amendments to the local laws of the states concerned, but will subserve great national interest of economy in government expenditure on elections," the Election Commission had said.


For the full text of the report (emphasis added by me) in NDTV.com, click here.

This has been something long overdue, and now that a Parliamentary committee has made the recommendation, one hopes it'll get the required push from all around, and become a reality well before the next general elections.

The process will require compiling electoral lists across the country, providing for updating on a regular basis, linking names to Aadhaar, etc etc, which is perhaps best outsourced to professional players, quite like Income Tax and Passport dept have already done in the case of their back-end work. 

Muralidhar Rao
Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

Electoral Reforms lying in the ghettos of Parliament

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Murali avare, namaskaara.

The following letter was carried in many tabloids in December 2015.  While I agree with your considered views on reforms, let us bring pressure on Parliament to open the dormant files, call for a conseus through public debate and implement them with before 2019 GE.  If implemented as recommended by the successive ECs since 1985, nearly 40 per cent of the present reps with criminal background will bite the dust and there will be enough room for improving the decaying political system.  As for near perfect Electoral Rolls, it is well neigh impossible to prepare one - it is my experience as Convener of Voters Awarness Movement (was able to enrol nearly 5600 new youngsters who had completed 18 + years but had not enrolled themselves - Ref: Mahajana First Grade College, Maharani's College, etc., during 2014 GE).  Reason being, there is apathy, callousness, my vote does not matter, filthy corrupt political scenario in the country, disgust etc.

Implement Electoral Reforms before 2019

     Has the present Government at the Center forgotten one of the items of commitment after coming to power - Electoral Reforms?  Thirteen electoral reforms recommended by the successive ElectionCommissioners of India from 1998 onwards are pending approval of cabinet and implementation; they include decriminalisation of politics, strengthening the election commission for making rules to conductelections in a fair manner and to help people exercise their franchise without fear or favor, and others. (Details of pending recommendations can be seen at http://eci.nic.in/eci_main/electoral_ref.pdf . Existingelection rules and Acts under the Peoples Representation Act are found to be weak and Indian democracy needs an online course correction for further strengthening the sovereign democracy.  

      In addition to the recommendations, above, it is time to also consider possibilities of making voting compulsory like in Australia, Turkey and other countries;  prescribe maximum age limit and minimum educational qualifications, provide a Recall facility for voters if the elected representatives are hopping from one party to another, indulge themselves in corrupt practices or criminal acts, similar to provisions for Recall provided for in Gram Panchayats where a No Confidence against the President / Vice-President of a Gram Panchayat can be brought to discussion by giving a notice in writing duly signed by a certain percentage of members of the Gram Panchayat.

    While India has been appreciated as the greatest living democracy in the world, it has also earned the dubious distinction of 'flawed democracy'. Of late, Indian democracy has been afflicted with Hepatitis B (jaundice or is it saffron). Further, it is likely to contract AIDS - Alarmingly Infected Democratic System. To cure this malady, Dr.Voter, the super specialist wants certain vaccines viz., Electoral Reforms, amendments to Peoples Representation Act, Police Reforms and removing flaws in the Constitution of India cure the AIDS malady. 

      Mera Bharat Mahaan. Let us ask for reforms in all fronts that affect the common man. It is now or never. Yes We should demand and get these reforms enacted with the help of all parties and judiciary; otherwise, we will be leaving a legacy of flawed democracy for our future generations and we will be responsible for such a sorry state of affairs. Can we expect all the above or some of the above before the next General Elections in 2019?

Vasanthkumar Mysoremat

murali772's picture

the imperatives of having common electoral rolls

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Set against the sea on the southernmost tip, Kollemcode, a fishing hamlet in Kanyakumari, sits on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border.

- - - The 'privilege', if one could call it that, is that many living here possess two ration cards and vote in both states. A fisherman, Susai Mariasimson has voter IDs of Kerala and TN. In TN, he votes for AIADMK and in Kerala for its rival, Congress. He lives in Pulluvala in Kerala, 7km from Kollemcode. "But I have relatives here and my business interests are in TN. I have two voter IDs," he says. While Kollemcode falls within Killiyur constituency in TN, on the other side of the border it is Neyattinkara.

- - -This time, however, they are all in a fix. Elections in both states are on the same day, May 16. Villagers have been meeting near the local church discussing in hushed tones how they could remove the ink from their right index finger and hop across to vote in Kerala the same day. Michael boasts, "I have voted three times in a day in the past. There are certain chemicals that can be used." Mariasimson says he rubbed lime to remove the ink.


For the full text of the report (emphasis added by me) in the ToI, click here.

The need for common electoral roll across the country (refer my post of 3rd May, scrolling above) is very clearly the urgent need of the day. Perhaps, the civil society needs to come together to demand its implementation earliest.

Muralidhar Rao


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