Friday, May 12, 2006

IT Powers Election Commission of India

Jyoti Basu, the erstwhile West Bengal chief minister and unquestioned head of the Communist party in West Bengal had shouted to the media while targeting the Election Commission of India, "Bengal is not Bihar". In retrospect, his flare up was incidentally due to the decision by the Election Commission (EC) of India to depute the best of their officers, task force and information technology infrastructure to keep vigil over the assembly elections that recently concluded in West Bengal. This step of the EC was following the lessons they had recently learnt from the assembly elections that had got conducted in Bihar.

Rediff has come out with a beautiful story, "How Bihar was Won" that speaks of how EC has transformed from managing the elections at a macroscopic national level in the past to booth level management during the recent years. The difference was chiefly observable in the Bihar assembly elections

  1. The chief difference was the availability of voter rolls in electronic form and technology-savvy officers which made it easier to scour the rolls for duplicate names and suspicious entries.
  2. A software programme generated a list of households showing more than 10 to 15 voters and these were also verified to eliminate the names of dead and migrated voters.
  3. Photo matching software was used to diligently comb out possible duplicate entries in the Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPIC). This single exercise allowed the EC to eliminate 1.831 million voters ( duplicate, dead or migrated ).
  4. The EPIC program was made popular through extensive campaigning and that helped the EC to rope in new voters into its electronic rolls, raising the percentage of people covered by EPIC in Bihar from 57% to an amazing 84% in one single sweep.
  5. Usage of Electronic Voting Machines and distribution of voting over a span of 7 days almost completely avoided incidents of booth capturing.

This truly is an indicator of how information technology if efficiently used can give credibility to the processes of any organization.

As N Gopalaswamy, one of the chief election commissioner puts it

"India will be a sham democracy if the very foundation of a democratic polity, namely free and fair elections, are missing from the scene. It needs the coming together of all the stakeholders -- the citizens at large, the Election Commission and the political class. When that happens our dream of seeing free, fair and peaceful polls like it happens in many other countries will turn to reality.

That will be the day when Indians could proudly say that India is also truly a democracy."

Basu I am sure will have to eat his words now that the same procedures duly applied by Election Commission helped his party retain power in West Bengal.

Read more about the powers of the Election Commission on Wikipedia

1 comment:

Passion said...

the tragedy of democracy in india is it breeds sarcasm...

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