Are our elections free and fair?
The 2019 Parliamentary elections started on a sour note with lots of discrepancies which in a way is a threat to our democratic process. EVM machines were malfunctioning at many polling booths with some even registering votes to one single Party irrespective of the button one pressed. The names of the voters missing and this has become a common phenomenon of elections in our country in recent times. The most shocking was the indelible ink disappearing after a few washes which have put our democratic process to shame globally.
Elections have no meaning if they are not free and fair. The Election Commissioner has to look into the discrepancies on a war footing as several phases of elections are yet to follow. Unfair practice at the election for undue advantage is a serious offense and those responsible should be put behind bars even if they happen to be influential politicians belonging to any party. Elections should be held under neutral observers from other countries that can be hired to give our democratic process more authenticity!
Need smart queue management at polling booths
The recent conclusion of Phase 1 voting for elections in 91 constituencies has resulted in a skewed voter turn-out ratio. The outcome of such a voter turn-out may only be known further as the election progresses in the upcoming phases and may perhaps have an impact with the announcement of results.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) this time was very proactive to mobilise voters to the polling booths with various voter awareness drives including Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation program (SVEEP) with the creation of an exclusive SVEEP division. The division has striven hard to create voter awareness programs but for the outcome, the voter turn-out expectations witnessed in the first phase of elections. It has now resulted in ECI to conduct further extensive outreach programs and thus, aim to achieve a better voter turnout in the upcoming phases.
The other outreach factors as adopted by ECI such as a dedicated voter express train carrying the message of voter awareness, providing assistance to Persons with Disability (PWD) through ‘Matdatha Mitras’ as volunteers, selfie contests encouraged on social media, extensive awareness drive to use CVIGIL app, 1950 helpline and NSVP portal etc are also appreciable. Perhaps an overworked ECI was time bound to enforce too many regulations related to Model Code of Conduct, Electoral Bonds, etc. Thus the due attention required to achieve high voter turn-out through extensive campaigns perhaps took a back seat for now.
ECI should now also strive to bring innovative measures to reduce waiting time of disheartening long queues at polling booths. The voters are patiently forced to wait in the scorching sun especially in the rural areas and perhaps may act as a deterrent factor resulting in low voter turn-out. Smart and quicker queue management at polling booths through technological innovation by ECI is highly a need for the hour.