Election officials across India asked to emulate Madhya Pradesh

December 25th, 2008 - 3:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhopal, Dec 25 (IANS) The Election Commission of India (ECI) has asked officials in other states to study the communication plan and vulnerability mapping exercise drawn up by the Madhya Pradesh electoral authorities for the assembly poll and replicate it in their states during the upcoming general elections, official sources said. “Besides the methodology adopted by Madhya Pradesh’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) in the vulnerability mapping exercise and identification of sensitive booths, the ECI has also asked all the other CEOs to implement the communication plan used on polling day in the Madhya Pradesh assembly elections in the Lok Sabha polls next year,” said an official on deputation in the CEO’s office here.

The decision was taken after a presentation of the communication plan was made by the Madhya Pradesh CEO J.S. Mathur at the two-day conference of CEOs of all states in Delhi last week.

Under the communication plan, polling booths were equipped with cell phones, landline phones and wireless sets (depending on the coverage area) to enable them to get in touch with senior officials command in case the scheduled polling process was hampered.

“The ECI personally verified the utility of the plan on polling day by randomly calling presiding officers at 15 polling booths to ensure that everything was going on smoothly.”

Besides the communication plan, the group SMS systems and group mailing systems also helped connect all the district collectors with the CEO’s office. This helped in official decisions being conveyed immediately and reminders were sent through text messages.

The ECI has also asked all CEOs to follow Madhya Pradesh’s techniques in the vulnerability mapping and identification of sensitive booths in the general elections.

The state had prepared a specific format to cull information for identification of sensitive booths and polling stations.

It was for the first time in Madhya Pradesh that information technology applications were used widely in the electoral process, enabling the field officers to make a quick decision which in turn led to a decline in number of violent incidents.

Software developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) helped the booth level officers, zonal officer, sector magistrate, returning officer and district returning officer to remain in constant touch with the CEO’s office.

“We were able to monitor incidents on polling day as they were reported in time,” said Mathur, adding: “It helped in taking action on complaints of malpractice during elections leading to a reduction in overall number of such incidents”.

The number of poll related violent incidents declined to 65 this time as against 195 during the 2003 elections. Similarly, there was also a marked reduction as far as loss of property during polls was concerned. While it amounted to Rs.399,000 during the 2003 elections, this time it is estimated to be Rs.70,000.

Also, the number of polling booths that saw re-polling was reduced by more than half in the 2008 assembly polls. While repolling was held at 68 booths in 2003, in 2008 it was only needed in 31 booths.

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