Shri Ram Nath Kovind 18th March 2019
Hon’ble President of India
Sub: The responsibility of preparing the nationwide Electoral Rolls, and the option of electronic voting.
I am one of those citizens in the country, who is pained to see that our political representatives, while constantly criticising each other are not able to devote enough attention to the imperatives of economic growth. I also regret that the Constitution has not provided any opportunities for citizens’ to take the initiative to propose changes in such situations. However, since ultimate sovereignty lies with people, as one of them, I think that I can permit myself to appeal to you, the ultimate authority under the Constitution to do whatever is possible in a specific matter to spur action on the part of the concerned state bodies.
Ever since 1997, when I returned from UNESCO, Paris, I have been collaborating almost every year, sometimes several times in a year, in the periodic revision of the Electoral Rolls, in the states of both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, as a representative of the resident welfare associations (RWAs) and the senior citizens associations. In spite of it, the results, to say the least, have not been satisfactory, at all. As you know, the lists are providing the matter for mutual accusations among the political parties, and are, more importantly leading to loss of confidence of the citizens in the capabilities of the higher officers in the Administration.
- I analyse the situation like 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. On the other hand, not only that they are not cooperating during the preparation, but 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, whereby they are unable to meet the concerned public for months together. Many projects are delayed with cost overruns.
iv). Similarly, 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, deletions, repetitions, and wrongly spelt names, etc. With every correction adding 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.
- I have a simple diagnostic of the whole situation. 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 whole operation.
- Hence, while abandoning the present administrative procedure, we should explore a more corporate style of managerial methods.
i). At the outset, 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.
ii). Funds should flow to it from the Consolidated Fund of India with direct accountability.
iii). 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 any error.
iv). 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 elections for the wards in the Panchayats as well as for the municipalities, for teachers or graduates constituencies, for age-wise or gender-wise eligibility or those who have less than two children, etc.
- Same is the case, at present with the time of election operations, during which period the Administration stands still.It should be made possible since it is now feasible to vote also electronically from home, in which case the whole election operation would be less burdensome and less dramatic. Further, it has many other advantages, such as increasing the voting percentage and consequent election of better candidates.
Hence, I appeal to you to use your good offices from the position you are holding to make it possible so that our democracy becomes more efficient.
Rao V.B.J. Chelikani