Are you among those 45.36 crore people who have moved out of their homes for work or education and so can’t vote? The Election Commission of India (ECI) has a solution — it is ready with a pilot of multi-constituency Remote Electronic Voting Machine (RVM or remote EVM) to facilitate participation of domestic migrants from their remote locations in the voting in their home constituencies. However, opposition parties are not impressed.
On Monday, the ECI held a meeting with all eight recognised national parties and 57 state political parties in the national capital to demonstrate the functioning of the multi-constituency prototype RVM.
THE ECI’S IDEA
RVM is essentially a modified version of the existing EVM and allows migrated voters to exercise their franchise in their home constituency elections on the day of polling from their current residence.
According to the ECI, the modified form of EVM can handle up to 72 multiple constituencies from a single remote polling booth.
There is no central database available for migration within the country. However, the analysis of available data in public domain points to work, marriage and education related migration as important components of domestic migration, according to the poll body.
As per the ECI, one-third of the voters do not vote. “This translates to a high figure of about 30 crore voters,” it said.
As per the Census 2011, 45.36 crore citizens in India are migrants.
Most of the political parties were against the RVM and raised a lot of questions.
The Congress said the EC is confused. Speaking to News18 after the meeting, Praveen Chakravarty said: “There is no question of remote voting when we don’t even know who the migrants are, what is the need for this and how we are going to do this without eroding the trust of the election process. We said there is no question of even looking at the system. First, let us understand what this whole thing is about," he said.
Trinamool Congress’s Mahua Moitra termed this as “putting the horse before the cart".
“We are here for a demonstration of a remote voting machine. None of us have given agreement that we will use it…. almost every opposition party said they do not believe in this machine," she said.
Manoj Jha also echoed similar sentiments when he said that when the data on migrants was sought during the pandemic, the government said they don’t have any such data. “The biggest thing is raising credibility. There are a lot of reasons that people are not going to vote…A clear message was given to the EC that they should not rush for anything like this. People have their doubts and democracy cannot function in a rush," he said after the meeting.
Speaking to News18, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) representative said that they will give their response in writing after consulting with party supremo Mayawati.
The ECI had earlier solicited written views of these parties by January 31 on various related issues. Now, the deadline has been extended to February 28.
Thomas Chazhikadan of Kerala Congress-M said that while it is a good proposal, questions have been raised even on EVMs. “This is a good proposal. But first they should go into other issues also. They are saying that 30 crore voters are keeping away from the election process. Are these only domestic migrants? First they should be sure about these things."
“It is being said that EVMs are being misused. Even in the meeting, it was demanded the ballot paper be re-introduced for the election process. Remote voting is defective and can be misused, it was the view of the parties. We, as a party, are also demanding re-introduction of ballot papers," he added.
Congress’ Digvijay Singh also questioned the EVMs. “Any machine with a chip can be manipulated… you don’t know where these chips are coming from or who is writing these softwares. All these questions were raised (in the meeting)," he said after the meeting.
He went on to say that the ECI is confused as “when there are no surveys on migrant labourers, they are providing services to the migrant labourers".
He also said that the idea of RVM is not being accepted by the parties.
Payyavula Keshav of the Telugu Desam Party told News18 that they are not against this in-principle. “We want consensus first and then the clarification. Then you go for the process. These people directly went for the machines…in-principle, we are not against it. But there should be a proper study first.”
“The EC says that 30 crore people don’t vote and then they talk about migrants as if all of them are migrants. There are a lot of bogus voters. They have to see whether those who are not voting are migrants or are the educated youth with apathy towards the government or the elite and rich who want to sit at home. They have not done any study," he said.
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