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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid