Citizens' Issues
Ways of ECI: Turn voters out and complain about poor voter turnout

When CEOs do not follow ECI guideline of maximum 1,200 voters per booth, it  certainly reduces the voter turnout, by design and not due to voter apathy as pronounced by armchair experts and authorities

At 5 past 7 O’ clock on 17th April, I was the third person in queue in front of my polling booth. One voter was inside the booth, arguing that his name was in the voter list while the polling booth officer was unable to find the name in the list. After about five minutes, which felt like 50, he cast his vote and allowed the queue to move. With the rate at which the queue moved, I hope that the 1,359 voters in my booth could cast their votes by 6pm, the deadline for voting.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has taken exemplary steps to set up polling booths in remote areas even to cater for a single voter. A Times of India story states, “Mahant Bharatdas Darshandas is the lone voter in the midst of Gujarat’s Gir forest, home to the Asiatic lion, for whom an entire election team sets up a polling booth every election — and will do so again on 30th April. … a polling team [of 4 to 5 people] travels around 35km to reach the hamlet of Banej inside the Gir forest, located in Junagadh district.” We salute the spirit and efforts of ECI to include every eligible citizen in the democratic process of elections.

However, this exemplary step is only an example. We have many booths with voter population much higher than what ECI has stipulated, making it impossible for people to vote within the time available, even with the usage of electronic voting machines (EVMs).

Technical features of EVM:

“Operationally an Indian EVM is a set of two units – the ballot unit and the control unit. A vote can be recorded only after the presiding officer enables the ballot unit through the control unit. However, even the presiding officer cannot enable the ballot for twelve seconds after every ballot is cast. Thus, a maximum of five votes can be cast in one minute.” – Dr SY Quraishi, page 192, “An Undocumented wonder; The Making of the Great Indian Election”, Rainlight/ Rupa.

For each voter to move out of the polling box and the next person to enter, we can consider about 18 seconds. Thus, practically, we expect maximum two votes cast in one minute if (a) the voters are enthusiastic and clear about the voting process; (b) the polling staff is efficient and ensure smooth uninterrupted flow of voters; (c) electoral rolls are clean and unambiguous …

Remember that the officials search voter names in paper rolls – not on a computer terminal. People on polling duty take time to find a name in the rolls if the voter does not carry a voter slip with correct details. Though required, chief electoral officers (CEOs) do not give voter slips in some areas. Queues stagnate when a name is not found in the rolls.
Polling booths remain open for 11 hours as directed by ECI. With uninterrupted flow of voters and super efficient polling booth staff, 120 votes cast per hour, 1,320 votes may be cast per booth in a day. If a booth has more voters, then the administration is at fault. Even with voter enthusiasm and efficient staff, we cannot expect good voter participation.

Paragraph 37 of Handbook for Electoral Registration Officers (EROs), published by ECI in 2012 states, “… Registration of Electors Rules, 1960 indicates that the number of names to be included in any part should not ordinarily exceed 2000. The commission has however, with voter’s convenience in mind, has desired that a part should not have more than 1200 electors in urban area and 1000 electors in rural area.”

ECI guidelines are not only for voter convenience, but are necessary to allow the system to work even in ideal conditions. If the voters in a booth exceed 1,200, many voters may not get their turn to vote. Serpentine queues would form demoralising the voters. Many could return without voting.

In sample booths of some cities, we find the following:

Rolls of




Booths with

> 1200 voters

Booths with

> 2000 voters

Voters in largest booth


Mar 2014




AP0450068: 5,530


Mar 2014




DL0540109: 4806


Mar 2014




KA1600280: 3101


Oct 2013




TN0150060: 2,530


Sept 2013




MH1780157: 1,723


Jan 2014




WB1160023: 1,598

The features of the EVM technically put a limit of five votes per minute. This could be achieved in a simulation, without any gap between two voters and achieve 3,300 votes in the 11 hours duration of voting. Thus even in a simulated run, not all the voters in a booth can vote. Being illogically optimistic, if we consider a gap of 3 seconds between two voters through the day, then we have 4 voters per minute, which allows 2,640 voters to cast votes during the day.

However, the ECI guideline of maximum 1,200 voters per booth is pragmatic. In the sets of samples, 36% of booths in Delhi, 32% in Chennai, 26% in Bangalore, 16% in Mumbai and 1.4% in Kolkata have more than 1,200 voters. This will certainly reduce the voter turnout, by design and not due to voter apathy as pronounced by armchair experts and authorities. We should be alarmed if we find a high voter turnout in large booths.

When ECI cares much for the lone voter in a forest, provisions in several populated areas are grossly inadequate to allow citizens to vote.

Bad electoral management can turn voters out and complain about poor voter turnout.

(Commander (Retd) PG Bhat is a retired naval officer, an educationist and a social worker.)


Sensex, Nifty to rally upto 16th: Weekly Closing Report
The market shot up on expectations of strong showing by BJP and NDA. If so, the indices will stay buoyant till 16th.

The BSE 30-share Sensex closed the week that ended on 9th May, at 22,994.23 (up 590 points or 3%), while the NSE’s 50-share Nifty closed at 6,858.80 (up 164 points or 2%) for the week. We had mentioned in the past week that this reporting week may see the Sensex, Nifty making gains. Although the markets started the week on a weak note, on Friday the indices surged to new life time highs.
The indices closed in the positive on Monday. Although the index tried edging higher the gain were marginal with the index giving up most of the intra-day gains by the end of the session. Nifty closed at 6,699 (up 5 points or 0.07%). The positive news from the US labor market played on the market sentiments. The 288,000 increase in employment marked the biggest upside surprise since February 2012 and followed a 203,000 rise the prior month. An index measuring the share of industries hiring climbed to 67, the highest level since January 2012. The jobless rate dropped to 6.3%, the lowest since September 2008.
On Tuesday the market tried moving higher, as well. The OECD said that India's economy may make a gradual recovery this year, helped by a rebound in capital investments as well as a pick-up in private consumption, but rising bad loans at its banks threaten to choke the recovery. Nifty closed at 6,715 (up 16 points or 0.24%).
On Wednesday, Nifty edged lower and closed at its lowest since 27 March 2014. Nifty closed at 6,653 (down 63 points or 0.93%). On one hand, US trade deficit narrowed in March as exports grew by the most in nine months, while on the other hand, services index in China from HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics dropped to 51.4 in April from 51.9 in the previous month. On Thursday too, Nifty was listless closing at 6,660 (up 7 points or 0.11%).
India Ratings & Research, a Fitch Group Company anticipates gold prices to decline in  FY15 to the range of Rs25,500/10g to Rs27,500/10g.
On Friday the market began slowly but soon it rose vertically as speculators massively build positions in frontline banking and cement stocks, on an assumption that NDA is likely to get a majority and come to power easily. The index closed at its new life time high. Nifty closed at 6,859 (up 199 points or 2.99%) and Sensex closed at 22,994 (up 650 points or 2.91%).
For the week, the top two performers among the NSE indices were Bank (7%) and Energy (5%) while the worst two performers were I T  (-3%) and Pharma (-2%).
Among the Nifty stocks, the top five stocks for the week were ICICI Bank (10%); Hindalco Industries (9%); IndusInd Bank (8%); Bharat Heavy Electricals (8%) and Reliance Industries (7%) while the top five losers were Bharti Airtel (5%); Lupin (-4%); HCL Technologies (-4%); Infosys (-3%) and Tech Mahindra (-3%).
Of the 1,422 companies on the NSE, 656 companies closed in the green, 722 companies closed in the red while 44 companies closed flat.
 Out of the 27 main sectors tracked by Moneylife, top five and the bottom five sectors for this week were:

ML Top sector   ML Worst sector  
Refineries 3% Telecom Services -5%
Con_EPC_Infra 2% Software & I T Services -3%
Industrial Intermediates 2% Media -2%
Consumer Durables 2% Financial Services -2%
Chemicals 1% Cement -2%



RIL, BP and NIKO issue arbitration notice to government
Is Reliance putting pressure to implement 10th January gas pricing guidelines?

Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) and its partners BP plc of UK and Niko Resources has issued a notice of arbitration to the Indian government seeking implementation of domestic natural gas pricing guideline 2014 that were notified on 10 January 2014.
"We requested the government to announce the gas prices as soon as the Model Code of Conduct was over, with effect from 1 April 2014 given that fact that our contracts had expired in March 2014. The ministry of petroleum and natural gas (MoPNG) indicated gas prices would only be announced for the 2nd quarter 2014, completely ignoring the Cabinet decision to change prices from 1 April 2014. This contradictory move has resulted in a loss to the contractor group and the government of Rs300 crore per month," RIL said in a note.
According to sources, the stock market anticipates the Manmohan Singh government to take a decision on this issue between13th to 16th May, as the model code of conduct would come to an end on 12th May. On Friday, RIL share price rose about 4% to Rs997.35 on the BSE, while the 30-share benchmark ended the day around 3% higher at 22,994. 
According to the joint statement issued by the three companies, the non-implementation of the guidelines, is delaying their ability to appraise and develop other significant discoveries made last year. 
"The continuing delay on part of the Government of India in notifying the price in accordance with the approved formula for the Gas to be sold has left the Parties with no other option but to pursue this course of action.  Without this clarity, the Parties are unable to sanction planned investments of close to $4 billion this year," the companies said in a joint release.
It said, "Overall, the Parties were planning to invest $8-10 billion in the next few years to significantly increase production from the KGD6 block. This domestic production is essential for meeting India’s energy needs and will also help conserve foreign exchange which is required for imports of natural gas into India at the present time. All of this requires clarity on pricing."
According to the note, gas pricing has been debated for over two years with a Cabinet decision, which approved a Rangarajan Committee price formula in 2013. This price formula was not an arms-length price as per the Production Sharing Contracts (PSC), yet it showed intent to move towards and transition to arms-length pricing. However, implementation of the Cabinet decision has been deferred leading to no clarity on gas price from 1 April 2014 for the contractor group to plan their future investments.
The government notification, dated 10 January 2014, giving effect to this price, was actually gazetted on 17th January, for the price to be effective from 1 April 2014.
Although the contract and revision of price structure has been going on for months now, the Oil Ministry decided to approach Election Commission for clearance to announce the price because of the election schedule. The poll watchdog committee advised the government to hold the rate till mid May, by which time actual voting process would be completed.
Last year in June, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) headed by prime minister Manmohan Singh approved near doubling of natural gas prices to $8.4 per million metric British thermal unit (mmBtu) from 1 April 2014, a move that may result in rise in power tariff, urea cost and CNG prices.
While RIL’s KG-D6 gas price was fixed in 2007 at $4.205 per mmBtu for first five years of production, APM gas rates were last revised in June 2010 when prices were raised to $4.2 from $1.79. RIL began production from its eastern offshore KG-D6 field in April 2009.
Apart from basic price per unit, RIL believes that the new price will be effective for supplies between 1st April and 30th June and it is only the dollar value to calculate the price, which has to be announced (or reconfirmed).
Fertilizer companies, on the other hand, have taken a stand that whatever the new price is fixed by the government, it cannot be applicable "retroactively". The new price, in any case, excludes local levies, marketing margins and transmission tariff. 
In the past, Reliance charged 13.5 cents per mmBtu as marketing margin over and above government set price of $4.205 per unit from KG-D6 gas, for the first five years' production, which ended on 31st March. 
The Rangarajan formula would be applicable for five years.
The Rangarajan formula uses long-term and spot liquid gas (LNG) import contracts as well as international trading benchmarks to arrive at a competitive price for India.
While the Rangarajan panel had recommended revising domestic gas prices every month based, the oil ministry changed it to a quarterly revision.
Though the average of the two currently comes to $6.775, the price of gas from April 2014 if these guidelines come into effect would be around $8.42 and over $10 in the following year. This is because Petronet’s deal with Qatar’s RasGas (India’s only functional long-term LNG contract) had a price-cap, which was lifted in January 2014, linking gas prices fully with crude.





3 years ago


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