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Voters' apathy? Rubbish!!!

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There is much talk about the urban middle class’s apathy and how they intentionally stayed away from the polling booths despite initiatives like Lead India and Jaago Re. But, actually, problem isn’t voters’ apathy - it's the flawed electoral system.

Since I was out of town during the previous elections, I wanted to get my name included and cast my vote this time. So, I registered with Jaago Re, filled up the form for myself and my family, personally went to the BBMP office (which is about 15 km away from my home) and submitted the Form 6. As advised by the official who received the forms, I went back to the same office to check the status after 18 days. I could not get an update even after standing in queue for a long time, since there was no power. I checked online multiple times, and finally found it just a day ahead of elections. I went to the polling booth with my passport (for identity) only to realize that the officials didn’t have the updated supplementary voters’ list and, hence, my name was missing again. So, I had to return home without voting.

Mine isn’t an isolated case. Many people went back home because their names weren’t on the voters’ list. And they say urban, educated people don’t bother to vote. How much more trouble should I take to work through our system, to exercise my fundamental right? There’s no point in getting people to vote when the actual problem is our system. Someone should find an alternative than calling us apathetic.


For the full text of the letter by Alex J Joseph, click on:
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=TOIBG/2009/04/27&PageLabel=4&EntityId=Ar00403&ViewMode=HTML&GZ=T

Similar was the experience of my daughter's friend - check:  http://bangalore.praja.in/discuss/forums/2009/04/my-voter-id-pain-madivala#comment-13204  , and there are any number of such examples posted on the blog.

Even by Election Commission's own admissions in the past, the voters' list accuracy was supposedly less than 50%, on an average across the country. From the kind of reports we are getting, it appears no better even today, even in the technology capital of the country. The entire set up is most unprofessional and a disgrace to this country that prides itself of its IT prowess.

And, it is not as if this state of affairs has not been known so far - check:  http://praja.in/bangalore/blog/murali772/2008/05/04/subversion-democratic-process  . But, what is shocking is the near total indifference to the issue, by both the government agencies involved as well as the civil society, even as they have been making a song and dance over matters of much less import.

Very plainly the problem is the incapacity of the agencies involved - namely Election Commission (both centre and state), NIC, and BBMP (local bodies). And, the only way out appears to be through the out-sourcing of the entire job of preparation and maintenance of the Electoral Roles across the country to a reputed company (like TCS has been engaged for Passport work) as brought out at http://praja.in/blog/murali772/2008/01/23/bangaloreing-voters-list-review

Muralidhar Rao

Comments

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

System Failure - Strengthen Election Commission

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Murali Sir,

My heartfelt sympathies to you and your daughters friend and to tens of thousands of voters who were enthusiastic in exercising their franchise but the system failed to live up to its existence.

I had anticipated this kind of scenario during this election also due to my previous experience of fangs clawing at me and the pain of the people when turned back, when I was Presiding Officer in a number of LS/Assembly/Local Body elections and kept up the pressure through posts as below. Based on my photo exposure investigative posting in the first link below, authorities kept an eye and it is learnt that two persons have been arrested for indulging in such nefarious activities:

http://mysorenext.com/ShowArticle.aspx?ID=1050&SECTION=7

http://mysorenext.com/MNextForum/threadView.aspx?id=20

http://mysorenext.com/MNextForum/threadView.aspx?id=24

In order to come to the rescue of such concerned citizens who, despite their best efforts, could not find their names in the voters list, I gave the success story of my pilot project with our street committee through power point presentation to the Deputy Commissioner, Mysore the citizens module C I V I L with G I S - (CIVIL - Citizens Initiative for Voters Innovative List) with GIS - this novel initiative and its modus operandi are scheduled to come up for discussion with concerned citizens, and officials called by the DC, as to how to replicate it - posted on Praja.Mysore with following link:

http://mysore.praja.in/discuss/forums/2009/04/success-story-a-street-committee-mysore

With this initiative, plan of action is to nail the Election Commission with transparency and accountability because EC's electoral lists have been successively dubbed by the media as 'Mother of All Frauds' and citizens like Mr.Murali are pained to the core and naturally we feel like rubbishing the entire voting system itself.

With regard to outsourcing, public money will be spent and as usual a hapazard list will be prepared with no transparency and accountability.  Just by listing 21 ID proofs by EC was only an eye wash because, their own officials had not risen up to the level of expectation in delivering their part of responsibility by updating the additional list with eligible voters - the officials involved were unwilling horses who were not satisfied with the incentive for the work involved, no action can be taken against them because they are all permanent staff of other departments deputed for this work.  EC did not expect such a rush. Direction was missing, infrastructure for speedy computerisation of uptodate data, software capability, ID card issue work, power supply problems, etc., etc. were totally responsible.

There was a clear system failure.

Rest is history... Let us not loose heart...'EC is a snake without fangs'-media.

-Vasanthkumar Mysoremath

nl.srinivas's picture

Point taken

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Hello Sir,
  I do agree with what ever you said. But still more than half of the people on the electoral rolls did not vote. Is it not a cause of concern?


murali772's picture

even CAF President in the same boat !

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The following is the experience of Sri N S Mukunda, none other than the President of Citizen's Action Forum, in his own words:

It is true that many persons did not care to verify whether their names were on the rolls or not. But in my case we had found that our names went missing from the Electoral Rolls during the Assembly Elections even though we had given the names when the enumerators had visited our apartment block. We then submitted Form 6 in the month of July 2008 and even after 6 visits to the office of the ARO it was not included. Thereafter we understood that our Form 6 was misplaced by BBMP office. So we resubmitted Form 6 again on 30th March 2009 and were informed by the ARO that our names have been included and were also given the serial nos as 1346, 1347, 1348 and 1349 in Part 1 of Assembly Constituency 171 (Padmanabhanagar). Acccordingly when we went for voting we found a strange thing. Our names were in the rolls which were with the political party representatives but were missing from the list that the polling officer had. The net result was that we could not vote.
    
I then contacted Mr. Raju in the Election Commission office (and whose number was provided by Dr Meenakshi) who was taken aback and was just unable to understand how such a thing could happen. I have taken xerox copies of all these lists and will be meeting the EC officers after 30th April.
     
I also would like to share the experience of the residents of our apartment block. We have 52 eligible voters whose names were on the rolls during the Assembly Elections. By some magic nearly 30 names are being shown in the present list as DELETED. This is more than 50%. And this was not an isolated case. On our street only, there were at least 50 more persons whose names were there in the list during the Assembly Polls and went missing this time.
     
This raises some fundamental questions about the way Democracy is functioning. Everyone is agreed that the basis of a functioning vibrant democracy is the right to vote which translates to the existence of an accurate and constantly updated Voters List. If this list itself is totally mismanaged not by intent or design but by systemic deficiencies then Democracy has no meaning. Today I read in the papers the statements given by many worthies saying that the voter especially the urban, educated middle class voter is apathetic and cynical and doesnt believe in exercising his franchise. But at least this time my experience has been that many many such voters have taken interst to get their names included but the system has not responded because of its built in deficiencies and unless and until civil society as a whole comes out with a workable plan which ensures the following, Democracy will lose its meaning.
     
1) An accurate constantly updated Voters List to be kept ready always without reference to any impending elections. The exisitng system just cannot cope with the requitrements and is so full of loopholes that it needs to be scrapped in toto and replaced with an alternative. This has to be decided after due discussions with all sections of society and citizenry. CAF can play a meaningful role in this and I request all members to offer their suggestions.
2) A proper method of controlling the Election expenditure icluding the feasibility of State funding
3) The suggestion of the winning candidate toget at least 50% + 1 vote of the total votes polled
4) The right to recall
5) Mandating internal democracy for all registered political parties
6) Building pressure on the political parties to propose clean candidates who are not criminals.
7) The need to scrap the practice of issuing whips
8) Need for PUBLIC Hearings before a law is tabled before the Assembly/Parliament
9) There can be many other ideas which can be suggested by our mebers so that they can become a part of the Agenda.

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Srinivas avare' According to

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Srinivas avare'

According to which electoral roles - the one in which Alex's, Mukunda's, etc names names were there, or the one in which they were not there?

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
sanjayv's picture

electoral rolls - how to fix?

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I will abstain describing my saga here.  In summary, it took me, an educated citizen, several visits to finally get my name on the rolla this election.  It was the wrong part number. My wife's date of birth was correct when we got the voter id card, but the voter list continued to list her only 22 years of age.  In short, this is a proper nightmare of unreliable information

How do we fix this problem, apply pressure etc., before the next election rolls around? Ideas?

Ravi_D's picture

My experience - Good and Bad

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All 6 in my family have EPICs (recently updated, just before assembly polls - had our share of fun then). All of us managed to vote during the assembly as well as the Lok Sabha polls.

The Lok sabha poll was interesting. We looked up our names online, and noted our sections and serial numbers (Sl #s 674, 675...). Those matched with the sheets the guys outside polling booths had. Inside, the list with polling officers showed some other names. After a few minutes of scrambling and searching, we found our names at a different location (Sl #s 700 something), and in a different sort order. We all voted in the end, but does this explain the problems others had? Could this sorting be the problem?

In any case, there is no arguing - this whole voter's list process needs a revamp, and more improtantly, should be continuous.

Ravi

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

Street Committees is the answer to solve the voters list pangs

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Also read post:

http://mysore.praja.in/discuss/forums/2009/04/success-story-a-street-committee-mysore

http://mysorenext.com/ShowArticle.aspx?ID=1050&SECTION=7

http://mysorenext.com/MNextForum/threadView.aspx?id=20

http://mysorenext.com/MNextForum/threadView.aspx?id=24

 

Hi Mukund, Murali Sir, NL Srinivas, Ravi,

All of us have suffered the pains of obtaining EPIC and stating the obvious; agreed, but let us discuss solutions.  In the above post I have explained how we, as responsible citizens, can ensure inclusion of our names by being proactive and taking the problem to its logical conclusion i.e., EPIC with our name in the part, sl.No. and constituency. 

We know EC of India is a skeletal office with no permanent staff, except for permanent members for a tenure; that office has to depend upon unwilling horses - staff deputed viz., revenue officials, government servants etc., who will not be really interested to rendering service - instead, they would prefer to work in their office where ACTION is of real benefit. 

Add to this the most harassed community of teachers who, while conducting census or voters list correction, look at the 10 storeyed building and sweat at the thought of going up the stair case and sit near the gate, inquire with the security guard, fill up forms and vamooze.   This is a reality check conducted through my Smt. who was a non-teaching staff in a school. I was floored with this finding; then how can we expect a correct voters list or census figures?

I still remember my association with Vote Bengaluru effort 2004 along with Dr.Meenakshi and enthusiastic college guys and girls,  to correct the voters list when we brought the Election Commissioner  to the voters door step at Rajajinagara I block, who conceded the 50% mistakes existing in the voters list.

Let us get to the root of the problem, EC has inherent problems, its system is on the verge of being called as 'failure'.   So, let us create Street Committees, create correct details of voters problems, get the concerned Revenue Officer to your street with a digital camera and a printer in a mobile van and get EPICs. 

Above success story link will show you how I went about and ensured impact about the service providers coming to our street for cleaning the drains, removing muck from footpath etc.  DC Mysore is likely to call for a meeting shortly for implementing this kind of citizens initiative for the welfare of all without depending upon entirely on his own unwilling horses. 

Let us make them serve us.  There is system failure to ensure democratic voting.

-Vasanthkumar Mysoremath

murali772's picture

A comment each from two

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A comment each from two respected members of the civil society (in a Yahoogroup):

1) Karnataka (blr in particular) is the pits. And part of the reason is the State election commissioner feels slighted that this is a job way below his capabilities.

Today I was talking to an officer who is part of the observer process in Uttarakhand. He was amazed at the quality of the electoral rolls ­ 100% with photo; clear addresses and all random checks yielded the person on the photo. Over 30,000 postal ballots sent out (since many serve in the army). He said we are 30 years behind in Karnataka on the poll process

2) I wish the State Election Commissioner could prove that this job is way below what he can do. I am yet to meet a more opinionated person in the government. No doubt he is very honest but he is not willing to listen to others.

I have heard from others too that other states have done a better job in updating and maintaining the voter's list. Unfortunately in Karnataka our officers are no match as far as administering the state is concerned..

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
Public Agenda's picture

Uttarakhand may really be better

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Yes Murali Sir the  yahoogroup must be referring to the CEO of Karnataka, But it is true that Uttarakhand was much better off. I have seen a card of close relative with photo in 1994.

In fact for them to vote also the ballot was taken up to where they stayed in a remote village riverside 8hrs by roadf and 5 hrs by walk from Dehradun

But too much focus on media statements and media savvy officers could be our bane. The work really suffers. In mysore e,g the mobile VFC was intocuced but was not much used.


trimurthi's picture

www.ceokarnataka.nic.in, Voter Facilitation Center and toll free

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I read about the Voter Facilitation Centres located across Karnataka advertised in leading newspapers. These were like fast-track courts.

I submitted mine to the VFC in Vivekananda Park, Mahalakshmi Layout on March 2 using the paper form available there (no Jagoo Re). The lady asked me to come in 10 days, and I did to find that it was still not processed. The lady put a mark in her register (this had the forms that were accepted per day) against my name. She asked me to come in 4-5 days. I went again and was happy to see my name included. Got the EPIC too.

Few days before April 23, I checked www.ceokarnataka.nic.in for the new voter list they had uploaded. I checked for my name, and it was there. I also called up the 24x7 toll free number and they told me my polling booth including room number!!

I helped my friends and colleagues to also check this way and register, and all of them had success and they voted without hassles.

Let me mention my experience:
4 people (including me) from my family were registered in Ranebennur and my parents recently relocated to Mangalore. My brother and I to Bangalore. First I checked on ceokarnataka.nic.in for our names. I noted the AC no, Part no, Serial no and filled up relevant forms for deletion.
I went to Ranebennur and submitted Form 7 for deletion. IT was no easy work as the officials said 'come after a month' but I persisted. They gave me the acknowledgement which I submitted in Bangalore.

My parents submitted in Mangalore, and they had no problems too. All of us voted with no hassles.

I temporarily live in Banashankari and had to travel to Mahalakshmi Layout (BMTC) 3 times. I may have lost few hours, but that is ok as I considered this was more important than shopping/partying/watching TV, etc, etc.

Every time I see the news/read about voter roll mistakes, etc I laugh at how it would have all been avoided had they visited VFC few times, confirmed with 24x7 toll free number before going to polling booths.

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

Participatory democracy assures value

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Trimurthi avare,

You had the patience and perseverance to ensure your name etc., and you have every right to smile. 

There are many who does not have even this much of patience to ensure their names in the voters list.  Many are under the impression that just by filling up requisite forms ensures their names; but it is a misconception - your follow up action is very important.  Some just submit the forms and do not collect the acknowledgement or if collected, will not preserve it - this is negligence; if only they obtain and preserve it, they can prove to the authorities subsequently that they had done their duty and that the system has failed to ensure necessary entry in the voters list or has failed to communicate objection for non-inclusion. 

It is time for all of us to help ourselves and be proactive for ensuring participatory democracy and not to depend upon a system that is failing often than ensuring deliverance.

- Vasanth Mysoremath

trimurthi's picture

Participatory democracy

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Vasanth Sir, I like what you said - "Participatory Democracy".

I'm not surprised with the blame game, thats become an integral part of our culture.
littleabout's picture

Solution

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The solution would be to make voting compulsory in which case if your name is not in the voting list you can blame the government for it and they will have to look into the matter before they can blame you.

Before voting is made compulsory we need a Identity card just like the social security in the USA. Why do we need it? Well as of now the government does not have any accurate data consider your voting list every election you get the list with too many errors why does that happen? Are the data being feed each time and then printed? 
Voting can be made compulsory between 18 to 60 years; any one above 60 are free to decide if they want to vote.  People who fail to vote may say have to pay a fine of 1000 Rs. And any such amount can also be fixed.. (This will also indirectly take care of the expenses occurred in elections)

Making voting compulsory has many advantages
1.    Efficient working by the election commission before elections so as the voters list are in perfect order, as they will be accounted for.
2.    A voter who never showed interest will be forced to come out and vote.
3.    People who do not vote without valid reasons can pay hefty fine that can help reduce the expenses occurred during the election process.
4.    Many issues will automatically find a solution for example many in Mumbai were on vacation / business trip / other reasons, away from Mumbai and hence could not vote. They should also get a chance to vote somehow.
5.    It will be good for the political system as we get a better mandate with maximum votes.
6. If you force people to vote you need to have the None of the above option on voting machine.
Having said that most politicians will not agree and will use the old democratic way saying in a democracy people should be free to vote or not. 

Countries that enforce compulsory voting:
•    Argentina (compulsory for citizens between 18 and 70 years old, non-compulsory for those older than 70)
•    Australia (compulsory enrollment and voting for local, state*, and national elections for all adults over 18).
•    Belgium
•    Brazil[3] (non-compulsory for citizens between 16 and 18 years old and those older than 70)
•    Chile (enrollment voluntary)
•    Cyprus
•    Democratic Republic of the Congo
•    Ecuador (compulsory for citizens between 18 and 65 years old; non-compulsory for persons aged 16-18, illiterate people, and those older than 65)
•    Fiji
•    Liechtenstein
•    Nauru
•    Peru (compulsory for citizens between 18 and 70 years old, non-compulsory for those older than 70)
•    Singapore
•    Switzerland (compulsory in the Canton of Schaffhausen only)
•    Turkey
•    Uruguay

Why would any voter/politician reject this idea? Unless it does not server their own purpose.

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

Voting - Let us look forward and tell what we want...

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Trimurthi/littleabout Sirs,

Your observations are good enough and you might have also seen the following thread:

http://mysore.praja.in/discuss/forums/2009/04/success-story-a-street-committee-mysore

Also please have a look at

http://mysore.praja.in/discuss/forums/2009/05/online-voting-system-an-outline

http://mysore.praja.in/discuss/forums/2009/05/prajas-agenda-next-government

Let us look forward and tell the government what we want..

-Vasanth Mysoremath

 

trimurthi's picture

Need to build an accurate database first!

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VKM sir, from C.I.V.I.L initiative it looks like voter ID card suffices for the national identity card.

Do you think a new co-ordination effort between election dept, utility depts, and other depts to software link govt. records will help better accuracy?. I mean, if a person moves out of a street/city/state, his national ID moves automatically and seamlessly.

If this is already in progress then great! I'll be more than happy to know more...
Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

Meeting with Mr.Manivannan, DC, Mysore is pending...

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There is a likelihood of taking up this success story of a street committee by concerned authorities at Mysore and l am sure that with such proactive officers at the helm of affairs, nothing is impossible.  

Our democratic systems have certain built in 'capacitors'/invertors' - you know what I mean - inability to handle mega projects, 'faculty limitations' and mindset fluctuations at lower levels of heirarchy etc.
 
- Interfacing or coordinates/ variables/ parameters you have mentioned are definitely possible at a later date for which necessary USB ports will have to be kept open.
  
- Right now our foremost concern is to improve on three things in one go -
 
-create a near perfect electoral roll with Prajegala participation based on their own data feedback and helping them to get what they need at the street level and also to help the service providers.,
 
-issue of India Citizens Security Card (ICSC)
 
-rehash of hapazard house numbering of Indian homes.
 
 
Many Prajas have expressed interest and in order to keep the ball rolling, I have sent a link up to Mr.Shashi Tharoor, the new MP from Kerala, whom, I thought might be the right man to take up issues with the Election Commission because he has been vocal in his many ideas.  
 
 
- I have also sounded some young techy friends who have evinced interest.
 
 
For a beginning at a higher end,  I have sent a congratulatory message to Mr. Shashi Tharoor, the new young MP from Kerala - mail: tharoor.assistant@gmail.com - who wants to turn a new leaf in governance of our country.  Prajas may like to congratulate Mr.Tharoor and encourage him to help himself to more power by helping us with more good governance.
 
 
In response to my mail, I received an automated reply thanking me but I have replied saying that I need his feed back on the attached files and not just an automated thanks giving mail and requested his <office.assistant> to submit hard copies for his consideration.  Let us hope something will keep moving from some corner of India.
 
 
This is akin to 'carrot before the horse' plan; I have had very good success in my experiment with an elected representative who was highly grateful for the achievable goals that were implemented.  Guys like Tharoor are Arabian studs capable of running/winning classic races  -  I am the rider and the reigns - read votes - are in my hands, I have set the winning post of good governance and my distance (5 years) running - instead of hitting the horse, I dangle the carrot of power in front - make the horse run faster to catch the carrot and lo and behold I reach my destination in a record time - provided the horse does not fall and I will be constrained to shoot it! 
 
 
-Vasanthkumar Mysoremath

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