From VVPATs and apps to ads of candidates facing criminal charges: Election Commission's new measures for Lok Sabha polls
The Election Commission has introduced a slew of new measures to iron out some of the hiccups of India's previous 16 national ballots and increase public trust in the democratic process.
The Election Commission has introduced a slew of new measures to iron out some of the hiccups of India's earlier polls
The new measures, which includes bringing in the concept of citizen monitors, aims to raise public trust in the democratic process
This time, candidates under a legal cloud have to issue three newspaper and TV ads detailing any charges they face in the constituency where they're standing
New Delhi: Holding the world's biggest democratic election is no mean feat, with 900 million Indians across the country eligible to vote between 11 April and 19 May.
To iron out some of the hiccups of India's previous 16 national ballots — and increase public trust in the democratic process — the Election Commission has introduced a slew of new measures.
With an estimated 300 million illiterate adults across India, photos of candidates will now feature alongside party symbols on electronic voting machines.
The devices have been dogged by claims they can be hacked, but will now print out a chit for each voter, who can confirm the details before dropping it in a sealed box inside the polling booth.
Random matching of the chits and numbers of votes on the machines should verify no tampering was done.
Vehicles transporting the voting machines will also be fitted with GPS devices to monitor their movements.
In the outgoing Parliament, there were 186 lawmakers facing criminal charges or being investigated — some 112 of them involving serious cases such as murder or rape.
This time, candidates under a legal cloud have to issue three newspaper and TV advertisements detailing any charges they face in the constituency where they're standing.
The Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) charity reported in 2014 that candidates facing criminal charges had a higher chance of winning elections compared to those without — either by intimidating voters or from buying influence.
Candidates have to declare income and tax returns for the past five years — the information is made public before the vote — as well as submit details any of assets and liabilities in their name abroad.
Webcams broadcasting live on the internet will monitor 5,000 polling stations and all counting halls, allowing voters to keep a close eye on proceedings in real time.
A smartphone app will allow citizens to record any polling misconduct or malpractice such as distributing liquor or drugs — a common method of vote buying.
The complainant, who can remain anonymous, can upload a photo or video to the cVIGIL app, and officials are obliged to respond with action taken within 100 minutes.
A toll-free helpline for voter information, feedback and complaints will also operate for the first time.
Apart from citizen monitors, some 3.7 million polling staff were involved in running the 2014 election.
India is Facebook's biggest market, with smartphone use exploding since the last election thanks to the world's cheapest data tariffs.
Candidates have to declare their social media accounts in legal filings when they apply to become an election candidate.
This is aimed at monitoring and ending the misuse of social media during the polls, in a country where online misinformation is rife.
Social media advertisements will be scrutinised and vetted by the Election Commission.
Political advertising on social media will be considered a formal part of the campaign in the upcoming polls, unlike in 2014, and subject to rules and regulations.
Facebook India has said it will run "published by" or "paid for by" disclaimers on political advertising to increase transparency.
The new policy will also apply to Instagram, the photo app owned by US tech giant.
Nearly 39,000 voters have registered as "third gender", the first time they have been able to after a 2014 Supreme Court ruling that formally recognised transgender Indians.
There are around half a million transgender people in India, but previously they had to register as either a man or woman.
Female participation in Indian politics is low and just 59 lawmakers out of 543 in the outgoing Lower House of Parliament are women.
This year every constituency across the country is required to have at least one voting centre reserved for females, while Karnataka has gone even further and will boast 600 women-only polling stations, including staff and security.
Subscribe to Moneycontrol Pro at ₹499 for the first year. Use code PRO499. Limited period offer. *T&C apply
Punjab Municipal Election Results 2021 Updates: Congress sweeps municipal corporation polls; verdict rejection of 'anti-farmer' Oppn, says CM
Punjab Municipal Election Results 2021 LIVE Updates: The ruling Congress won six municipal corporations in Punjab and emerged as the largest party in the seventh, and was leading in a majority of the 109 municipal councils and nagar panchayats
The Election Commission of India has decided to deploy 125 companies of Central Armed Police Forces in the state by 25 February for the upcoming Assembly election
The team reviewed the follow-up action taken after the chief election commissioner's visit to the state from 18 to 20 January