Pune District’s Election Officer Monika Singh Thakur
As the country heads towards the 2019 general elections, the Election Commission is gearing up for the smooth execution of elections in the world’s largest democracy. Monika Singh Thakur, Pune district’s election officer, tells The Indian Express about the preparations, including special voters’ enrolment drive, for the upcoming Lok Sabha and Assembly elections
The special voters’ enrolment drive seems to be receiving a poor response. What are the reasons behind it?
The voters’ enrolment drive is being carried on every Sunday of this month. Booth-level officials are helping residents get themselves enrolled on voters’ lists and also with any necessary changes in their electoral rolls. We have appealed people to take advantage of the special drive as it would be the last opportunity before the forthcoming elections. The online facility is available on http://www.nvsp.in and this special drive is an additional facility to physically get their enrolment done, along with checking the inclusion of their names.
Officials deputed at polling booths only carry hard copies of voters’ lists of their respective booths. They carry very few electoral forms. Why does this system continue at a time when there is easy access to technology?
There are 7,666 polling booths in the district and it is not feasible to provide them the technological device. The special drive is an offline facility as the online facility is available to everyone with access to the internet. Further, those on election duty are deputed from various government offices and schools. We do not expect everyone to be tech-savvy.
How are you going to avoid the repeat of what happened during the 2014 elections, when there were so many complaints of voters’ names getting deleted from the electoral rolls?
We are aware that there were complaints of many names getting deleted from electoral rolls. This is the reason that we have this special drive at polling booths. Now, it is up to the residents to make use of the facility and ensure that their names appear in the electoral rolls. Complaining on polling day is of no use.
How can voters whose names were deleted from the rolls in 2014 get enrolled again for upcoming elections?
The voters who could not cast their votes in 2014 due to their names missing from the electoral roll should fill up Form 6 for new voters. They will have to sign the declaration included in the form and submit the form to the booth-level official. These voters should ensure that their names are not included in electoral lists, as the double mention in the list would invite legal action against them. The hearing on all applications on electoral roll would be done next month.
What efforts are being made to encourage voters to participate in the special drive?
We have held meetings with leaders of political parties and sitting MLAs and MPs to resolve all issues related to electoral rolls and encourage voters to check their names in electoral rolls, along with getting the necessary inclusion, deletion or correction done during the drive. Political parties have been asked to appoint booth-level assistants for each booth as per the Election Commission’s directives.
Booth-level officials and booth-level assistants have been appointed in the past as well, but the problems with electoral rolls continued. How will things change this time?
We are planning to hold a meeting with office-bearers of housing societies. They will be asked to act as booth-level volunteers and ensure that all eligible citizens are enrolled in the electoral rolls while the names of the deceased or non-eligible people are deleted.
What is the main focus of the enrolment drive?
We have observed that very few voters between the age of 18-19 years have enrolled themselves. The special campaign has been taken up in colleges, where administrations have been asked to get their eligible students enrolled. The students have to complete 18 years of age by January 1, 2019. The election office will be urging the Pune university vice-chancellor to issue directives to create awareness on enrolment for students.
How can people ensure that their names are not deleted from electoral rolls?
A list of deleted voters is published on the official website of the Election Commission. This time, there are plans to publish them in civic offices for easy accessibility to residents and also provide them to political parties.