A corporation to maintain nationwide Electoral Rolls & the option to vote electronically.
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Mr. Prime Minister, your mandate is to change India. Please start with the following!
In short, we want a corporation to maintain nationwide Electoral Rolls and the option to vote electronically in the elections.
I. The civil society activists have been for the past 20 years, collaborating almost every year, sometimes several times in a year, in the periodic revision of the Electoral Rolls, in different states in India, as representatives of the resident welfare associations (RWAs) and the senior citizens associations. In spite of our best efforts, to say the least, the results have not been satisfactory, at all, and as a consequence, the citizens are losing confidence in the capabilities of the higher officers in the Administration, where as our EVM machines are procuring world-wide appreciation.
1. The situation is the following:
i). In general, there is no evidence to say that the political parties are very successful in manipulating the preparation of the Rolls, though they are taking advantage of the errors and defaults to make it an issue, particularly when they are dissatisfied with the election results.
ii). Neither has there been any evidence of any ill-will or bad intention or complicity or sabotage, in a systematic manner on the part of the officers, high or low in handling the revision, at any level.
iii). Yet, at present, an army of government officers of various departments, of many ranks, including those of the All-India cadre are devoting lakhs of their man-hours, on this matter, to the detriment of their own professional duties, and are unable to meet the concerned public for months together. Many projects are being delayed, incurring cost overruns.
iv). Further, extra personnel are repeatedly mobilised from outside institutions like Anganwadies, schools, as well as the volunteers from the civil society, like the RWAs, senior citizens, youth and students, etc. for frequent revision campaigns.
v). Thus, colossal amounts of precious human resources, energies, time and funds are devoted, year after year to this process, which remains forever, full of omissions and commissions with deletions, repetitions, and wrongly spelt names, etc. Every correction leading to further mistakes, the whole process has been very unprofessional.
vi). Further, there are too many old and new versions of the lists circulating at the same time in the hands of the officers. There is no single updated version to be referred to by the officials or to be consulted by the public online, as a standard reference copy.
The diagnostic of the whole situation is simple. Firstly, it is entirely due to lack of efficiency on the part of the lower level agents, who are poor in literacy skills in noting names, etc. in the field, and the low level of computer-skills among those who feed them into the computer to update the lists. Same is the case with the distribution of the EPIC cards, as well as the slips that indicate the polling booths. Secondly, there is no single high officer who can be directly and permanently held responsible for the management of the whole operation.
3. To start with, the preparation and maintenance of the Master Electoral Rolls for the entire nation should be the direct and permanent responsibility of the Central Election Commission of India, as a pre-condition to their effectively fulfilling its mandate of “ superintendence, direction and control “ of elections.
i). Funds should flow to it from the Consolidated Fund of India with direct accountability.
ii). Following the successful example of Aadhaar numbering, we should have a parallel or linked permanent corporation, or a couple of private companies, which can be held responsible for recording and updating the lists.
iii). Now, it is technically feasible to maintain one single master electronic list of those who are eligible to vote instantly on various occasions, based on their Aadhaar number. The same master list can be re-formatted, as and when required to suit the constituency needs, such as elections for the wards in the Panchayats or in the municipal wards, for teachers or graduates constituencies, for age-wise or gender-wise eligibility or those who have less than two children, etc.
II. Now, during the election operations: Months before and months after the elections, the whole nation gets into the grip of the campaign mood. In addition to the bye-elections, the elections by rounds or phases might last for six months or more. During this period, the peoples’ representatives, ministers, the chief minister and even the prime minister cannot do much business. The whole administration stands still, as many high officers are on election duty or the ministers are not there to sign the files.
1. Hence, active administrative personnel should not be touched at all. Instead, the associations of the pensioners, senior citizens organisations, ex-service personnel and even the para-military and the active defence personnel stationed in the area should be solicited to participate by the ECI. Some more can be recruited from the open market. Foreigners in the country should be given the privilege of being observers. Neighbouring countries under SAARC should send volunteers. UN observers should be invited. The whole operation would become very educative and transparent.
2. At the same time, it should be made possible since it is now feasible to vote also electronically from home, or wherever the voter might be, as a parallel process. In this situation, the voting percentage would be definitely very high with the participation of people out of station and even out of the country. Hence, the whole election operation would be more democratic, serene and economical, and less burdensome, less corrupt and less dramatic.
Hence, I appeal to you to use your good offices from the position you are holding to make these changes possible so that our democratic regime becomes more efficient.
Dr. Rao V.B.J. Chelikani
International Foundation for Human Development (IFHD)
12-13-705/10/AB, Balaji Residency-106,
Gokulnagar, Tarnaka, Hyderabad-500017
Tel: 91.040. 6521 4993, 6450 4993
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