While it is common knowledge that the Indian election is the largest in the world, the magnitude and the complexities are hardly appreciated. With 814 million voters, we have an electorate that is more than each continent on the globe. In fact, almost 90 countries equal the number of Indian voters, with all their complexities rolled into one.
Pre-poll exercise itself is enormous. After all, when you are trying to locate eligible voters in a population of 1.2 billion people spread across a geographical area of 3.2 million square kilometres, distributed over 640 administrative districts, 5,924 sub districts, 7,935 towns and 640,867 villages, the efforts have to be infinitely colossal to match the requirements.
India is the most diverse country in the world in every sense of the term. A very critical concern is therefore, the inclusiveness of all sections. From minorities and tribals, from women and youth to nomads, homeless and transgenders, no one must be left out. There is a system of continuous revision of rolls, interspersed with scheduled Intensive or Summary Revision. The appointment of Booth Level Officers has taken the service to the doorsteps of the voters.
The arrangements for the voters to cast their votes is a mind-boggling exercise. Nearly 11 million personnel - all govt employees - are enlisted, trained and deployed at 930,000 polling booths to ensure peaceful, incident-free elections. The neutrality of these personnel is absolutely non-negotiable. To ensure that, they are carefully screened and randomly assigned to polling booths. In a party of five, no one knows who the other four staff are. Even the polling booth is assigned to them at the time of their departure.
Material management, likewise, is a mammoth exercise. EVMs have to be manufactured, checked and rechecked and made ready for the polling booths in time, indelible ink procured, polling party's kits prepared. It may surprise many that each kit consists of as many as122 items! Not one must be missed.
Transport for these one crore ten lakh personnel is a logistical nightmare. They have to reach in time. And return in time. Safely.
The security of the voters and the poll personnel is the next big concern. A sensitivity analysis of the polling booths is done in advance and a three-tier foolproof security apparatus has to be put in place. Bad characters are rounded up, arms deposited, all pending non-bailable warrants are executed. An elaborate communication system ensures that nothing escapes the Election Commission's eyes.
Once EC is ready with all its preparations, it's over to the voters! They must come out to vote, and exercise this sacred right and duty without any inducement. Democracy would be meaningless without the people's participation. The Election Commission of India has set up a Voters' Education Division to educate, motivate and inform the voters using all kinds of media available. Voters have responded with tremendous enthusiasm, breaking all records of turnout. What we are seeing for the last four years is a participation revolution.
The festival of democracy has come of age. It's watched with great interest the world over. Hope we live up to the expectation.