Participants in the Moneylife Foundation’s event addressed by the Chief Election Commissioner share how big the problem of a wrong voters’ list is
“Keeping an accurate voters’ list is something we see as one of the most difficult tasks. Dead and bogus voters populate the voters list,” admitted Dr SY Quraishi, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), speaking at a seminar organised by Moneylife Foundation and V Citizens Action Network (VCAN) on Tuesday.
While answering to a question raised by Mrs Indrani Malkani, trustee of VCAN, about the voters’ list being highly inflated due to non-deletion of names of deceased persons, Dr Quraishi said, “It is indeed a serious problem. But Election Commission (EC) has to manage the entire country with only 600 staff. And there are lots of responsibilities that we have to take care of.”
Mrs Malkani had pointed out that there are many names in the voters’ lists of people who were no more. However, though it is the duty of the family members to notify the authorities of births and deaths, many do not do so. She said, “The state of Maharashtra has issued a circular, which says that co-operative housing societies must assist the booth level officers (BLOs) in making an accurate voters’ list.” Praful Vora, spokesperson for India Against Corruption, also highlighted the issue of bogus voters.
Dr Quraishi agreed and said that in Uttar Pradesh, the EC identified 53 lakh deceased voters whose names were still in the lists, and had them removed. Similarly, 83 lakh missing voters were identified; who had shifted to other states, but there was no way to ensure whether they would be coming back or not.
“These dead or missing voters are very dangerous, because they leave room for bogus voters,” Dr Quraishi said. He explained how keeping photo records of voters not only made voters lists more accurate but also stopped people from voting multiple times.
However, he said that civil society organisations must participate in the process and assist the government to maintain accurate electoral rolls.
In Manipur, the number of voters has gone down because the EC now uses face recognition software to identify voters, which kept bogus voters at bay. In the recently concluded polls, Dr Quraishi hinted that re-polling may occur in some booths were proxy-voting had been reported.
However, the Chief Election Commissioner also said that people should come out and vote, because absent voters often leave ground for bogus voters. “When you do not vote, the turnout is less; this makes it easier for criminal voters to win. They then deploy their agents who vote in the place of these absentee voters,” Dr Quraishi said. Indeed, if one eliminates the bogus voters from the list, the voter turnout is not too bad in India.