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

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    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.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.