News / Asia

India’s Election Involves Daunting Logistical Challenges

FILE - Polling officers carry Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) to a polling station in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, May 12, 2009.
FILE - Polling officers carry Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) to a polling station in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, May 12, 2009.
Anjana Pasricha
Conducting elections in the world’s largest democracy is no easy task. Starting April 7 and continuing for five weeks, Indian authorities must surmount daunting logistical challenges to reach the country’s more than 814 million voters.
 
Five years ago, during the last general election, air force helicopters carrying polling officials were unable to land in a remote region tucked in the high Himalayas in Ladakh. Undeterred, a polling team trekked for 45 kilometers through knee-deep snow in the high mountains to reach 35 voters.  
 
As India heads for another election next month, officials are preparing for more such challenges.    
 
About 100 million new voters have pushed up the total numbers of voters to some 814 million – an electorate greater than the total population of Europe. 
 
Rules stipulate that none of them - whether in a crowded city or a remote mountain village - should have to travel more than two kilometers to cast their vote. Deputy Election Commissioner R. Balakrishnan told VOA that traversing this last kilometer is not always easy.
 
He cited the example of a polling station with just one voter in the western Gujarat state.
 
“This polling station is located 20 miles deep into the Gir forest jungle. To secure this one vote, we will send a team of officials. Even one voter we try and reach out, and then for reaching out that one voter we do what it takes. And it involves sometimes using all modes of transport, from helicopters and elephants and camels and what not and sometimes involves days of trekking,” said Balakrishnan.
 
Observers say electronic voting machines being transported in bullock carts symbolize the essence of Indian elections - a complex management exercise coping with a diverse country where modern infrastructure has yet to reach every corner.    
 
The numbers are daunting: 930,000 polling booths and 11 million polling and security personnel will move through the country over the nine days that voting will be held between April 7 and May 12. By the time nomination deadlines close, there could be as many as 15,000 candidates competing for the 543 seats in parliament from about 500 parties.
 
As they plan polling schedules, Balakrishnan said officials have to keep in mind local festivals, harvesting seasons and examination schedules. With India heading into summer and the monsoon season, they also have to factor in adverse weather conditions; polls must be held before parts of the country face a monsoon deluge or soaring temperatures in desert areas deter voters from venturing out.
 
“It is the kind of largest event management exercise in the world. We have to ensure that the men and material [are] all in place dot on time at nearly one million polling stations,” said Balakrishnan.
 
Despite the numbers involved, electronic voting will enable counting to be concluded in just a day.
 
Scale is not the only challenge. A key test is to ensure fair voting. In the east of the country, Maoist rebels who hold sway over large parts of the countryside often try to sabotage the polls. In states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, efforts to influence voters by so-called “musclemen” are common.
 
Although by no means foolproof, the overall level of violence in Indian elections has declined, thanks partly to the help of modern communication and enhanced security. Balakrishnan has been credited with introducing mapping of vulnerable booths.      
 
“We do an exercise to identify the vulnerable areas where the election process could be threatened. This is identifying people who are vulnerable to be intimidated by someone and also identifying people who are likely to intimidate… and we respond with what is needed and what it takes,” explained Balakrishnan.
 
Journalists who have covered past elections agree. Manoj Joshi at the Observer Research Foundation said when he covered his first election, in 1984, many lower caste people known as dalits found it difficult to venture out on polling day.
 
“In western U.P. (Uttar Pradesh) you found that dalits just could not vote, meaning they were coerced into staying in their village and their votes would be cast for them. Then in places like Bihar and U.P. there was the institution of booth capturing, at night armed people would capture the booth and cast all the votes in favor of one or other candidate… Now the whole election process has become very secure, all that business is over,” said Joshi.    
 
Problems such as efforts to buy votes remain, but analysts say while political parties and candidates need to do much to clean up their systems, India puts its best foot forward at the time it conducts elections.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: stagnation oral from: Delhi
April 22, 2014 5:58 AM
The youth never had their say.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs