Working with the Election Commissioner

It was an eye opener for me when I started work on helping voters get their names registered with the Election Commission in Mumbai. My job was primarily to deposit the filled in forms with the election commission office. My first impression on entering the old customs house in Mumbai was that of wonder; there were piles of forms, frayed, yellowed, where dust had made a permanent home. Rats and bandicoots had chewed up wooden tables and god alone knows how many forms. 

The department was understaffed to say the least. As voter registration is supposed to be a once in five years activity, the department had very few permanent staffers. Every day they would requisition a new lot of clerks from various state and municipal government offices and would have to train them. Most senior officers too had election commission work as an additional duty over and above their regular work. So you can imagine their reaction to me when I tottered in with hundreds of forms from various societies! But their initial hostility evaporated when they realized that India First had gotten them the forms from buildings where it was impossible for them to penetrate. 

I felt sorry for the whole lot who worked despite all the odds. After dealing with Mumbai’s overcrowded public transport, once they reached the gates of the allotted societies, most of the times they were denied entry by the security despite them proving their genuineness. They were manhandled too. After collating, they would be back at the office to write it all down in registers and reconcile the data. Another problem they faced was of ward boundaries. Every ward had its election commission office. And one could submit the forms only if their building was in that ward. What I was impressed with was that after all this seeming madness of paper; we got voter ID cards for all the forms that we submitted! 

I find a nation-wide computer system could easily resolve all these issues. Wherever one lived, one could just visit the election commission kiosk and input all details personally get photographed on site, scan original documents proving residence and apply for voter registration. The officials visiting buildings to check validity of the applicant could probably carry tablets and authenticate signatures, pictures, and residence proof on site. Just some good software and some investment will get our voter rolls all secure, easy to manage and updated at all times.