Isn't it time that as important a task as preparation and maintenance of the electoral roles (and issuance of EPID cards), on which the success of the entire governance system rests, is out-sourced to professional agencies?
In response to a news item in the press that the updated voters' list was on display at the nearest polling booth (a local private school in our case), a few months back, I went over personally to make a check. I was pleased to note that even my daughter's name, the process of enrolling of which I had got started only a few months earlier when she turned eighteen, had also been included, though placed a few pages away from where the rest of the family's was.
Being the President of the housing complex association consisting of 128 dwelling units, where I stay, I looked for other known names from the complex. I found quite a few of them, surprisingly though scattered over some ten pages, interspersed with those of other residents living in independent houses in the locality. Further, with the inclusion of my daughter's name, my name now figured four times on the list - in my individual capacity, as h/o my wife, and as f/o my two children. Strangely, however, against each of the entries, as simple a name as 'Muralidhar' had been spelt in a different way. And, not just mine! Out of some 200 odd names from the complex, in the list, it would be a surprise if even ten had been spelt correctly.
One reason appears to be the maintenance of the master list in Kannada. People like me generally fill out the form in English. The State Election Commission (SEC) staff convert it into Kannada, and make the entries. Thus, when converted back into English, I land up as 'Muralidhara' instead of 'Muralidhar'. As a South Indian, this may be OK. But, when an 'Anil Chugh' is turned into an 'Anila Chugha', I suppose, he is not going to be too amused. Whatever, all that still doesn't quite explain the entry 'Murulidhar' as my name in one of the entries.
When I brought all these to the notice of an NGO that has been interacting with the SEC, supposedly to help improve it's functioning, it was suggested to me to have the appropriate correction 'form' filed. But, with the inherent problems remaining un-addressed, I wonder if it will help at all.
Incidentally, when I checked out the voters' list through a web-link provided by this NGO, to my utter shock, I found that my name did not figure in it at all. But, about a month back, when our jurisdictional ARO came by to hand over a list to our complex manager, to my great relief, I found all the names listed there, though, being in Kannada, the names figured as Muralidhara, Anila, Chugha, etc. When this was pointed out to the ARO, he has offered to get the photo ID card issuing team to set up camp in our complex over a week-end, and have the cards made out with the correct spellings then and there. So, I expect, that should solve the problems for us.
Apart from the Kannada translation problem, the bigger one plainly appears to be the lack of competency amongst the SEC personnel, typical of any government organisation. Where else would you find the recording of the age of a person, a varying parameter, on the ID card, when the obvious thing to do would be to record the constant "d/o/b" instead? Also, when it is mainly government school teachers who are kind of forced to take up the enumeration work, outside their duty hours and for a pittance of a compensation, is it any surprise that the product is of such poor quality?
The question that arises then is isn't it time that as important a task as preparation and maintenance of the electoral roles (and issuance of EPID cards), on which the success of the entire governance system rests, is out-sourced to professional agencies? No one can argue that the additional costs that may be involved would not be worth the value that would result. As things stand today, anyone can get any number of Bangladeshi's onto the rolls if one wants to. And, that indeed appears to be actually happening also, with the country paying dearly for it.
Further, very recently, it had been reported in the press that the government had decided to outsource a major chunk of the passport operations. Now, when as sensitive an activity as issuing of passports can be outsourced, is there a rationale any more in allowing the SEC to continue to muddle around as they have been, and only can.