The world’s largest democracy began its election process on 11th April 2019. Over the course of the next month, 90 crore eligible Indian voters will visit their respective polling booths and cast their vote in an attempt to elect the next government.
Last week I talked about why you should exercise your right to vote in this year’s General Elections (Read here). This week, I will tell you what level of preparation goes into conducting the elections. Hopefully, it will help you understand and appreciate our democratic processes even more.
Conducting elections in a country as large as India (in terms of population and geographical extent & diversity) is a mammoth of a task.
The country is divided into 543 constituencies. 10 lakh voting booths will be set up to ensure everyone receives the opportunity to vote.
During this election 250,000 central forces personnel will be moving in the country on 25 helicopters, 500 trains and 17,500 vehicles. Hundreds of animals like horses and mules will be helping India in choosing the next government as well. This entire operation will cost the exchequer approximately Rs.200 crores. The cost of keeping the world’s largest democracy, a democracy!
To organise and secure the elections, months of planning is required. The institution responsible is the Election Commission of India (Referred to as ECI henceforth). It is the apex body for conducting the electoral processes and its decisions are usually considered final on the issue.
The Home Ministry provides the necessary number of security personnel for conducting the elections. Every state has its own unique requirement which have to be taken into account while deploying and moving troops. The Central Reserve Police Force is usually tasked for securing polling areas during elections.
There are many things which have to be done in the days leading up to the elections
Preparation of the updated electoral roll is one of them. India is one of the largest nations in the world with a population of 1.2 billion. Every year new citizens become eligible to vote in elections as they attain the age of 18. Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of the government, especially the Election Commission of India to register the new voters (You can only vote if your name is present in the voters list, check if your name is in the voters list by clicking here). According to the ECI, 84.3 million people have become eligible to vote since the 2014, which is more than the entire population of Germany!
One of the most crucial aspects of conducting elections; when to conduct them?
India is a land of diversity. Our country has a quasi-federal structure where multiple states are created to ensure ease of administration and equal focus on every part of the country. The process of formation of states was done on linguistic basis (Read about Indian Integration here). Due to the multiplicity of cultures different practices, festivals and traditions emerged. E.g. Kerala, where a substantial proportion of the population is muslim, the ECI avoids polling days on Fridays.
Geography plays a part too. Many parts of the country receive monsoon sooner than later compared to most parts of the country. Therefore, the authorities have to ensure polling is completed in these areas as soon as possible. E.g. The Hilly North Eastern states.
Troop movement and logistics are also taken into account. Things such as how long will it take to move troops, polling officers, Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail Machines (VVPAT) etc. To set up polling stations in the island regions of the country like Andaman & Nicobar islands, it takes 2 days just to reach the archipelago.
A daunting task for conducting elections lies in securing districts affected by Left Wing Extremism. Maoist insurgents usually attack polling stations to deter people from voting. These attacks are symbolic of their disbelief in the democratic systems of the country. Heavy levels of fortifications and coordination with multiple intelligence agencies is required to secure these areas; this tends to be a slow process resulting in even further elongation of the election schedule.
Time is not the only factor.
Arrangement of logistics such as accommodation for the security forces as well as the polling officers. A village in India’s hinterland does not have a hotel for this. Government buildings have to be converted into makeshift headquarters for the purpose of polling in the specified region. E.g. A school in a village is sometimes used as accommodation as well as for polling purposes.
There are even things such as food! We cannot expect the staff and the forces to carry out the work on empty stomachs. Hence the government has to provide food to them. The last few elections have faced the problem of time being wasted due to ‘cooking of food.’ It is surprising to know that the forces had to cook food on designated station platforms. This would affect the schedule of the movement majorly. Fortunately, this time the IRCTC has been put to task for supplying food to forces on the move via railways.
These factors are taken into consideration because India is a country which values its democracy.
No voter to be left behindECI Tagline, 2019
India is famed to be the country which sets up a polling booth just to get the vote of one single person. If you are an eligible voter, go out and vote. A lot of funds and resources are put into action to get your vote and for maintaining democracy. Do your part in Celebrating Indian Democracy!
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