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

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline 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.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid