Remote Goa poll constituency foremost in electoral innovation

A remote constituency in Goa has become a testing ground for a sophisticated electioneering process in the country.

Panaji: A remote constituency in Goa has become a testing ground for a sophisticated electioneering process in the country.

Valpoi, a legislative assembly constituency, hemmed in thick forests of the Western Ghats, will witness its 17,000- odd voters being photographed on the spot and fingerprints being recorded at the time of voting, for the first time-ever in India during the bypolls scheduled there on October 18.

The district administration and state electoral office has conducted a massive and elaborate campaign involving more than 100 poll workers, who have been a part of this exercise.

"To enable this, the unique and remarkable software has been developed by Goa Electronics Limited (GEL). This will help us in identifying and zeroing down on the exact voter and will make the process transparent," District Collector Mihir
Vardhan told a news agency.

The software and the entire process which was compiled by the state administration in record time has also received the approval of the Election Commission of India (ECI) and has been put into implementation mode, albeit with alterations.

"We received the green signal only two days back. The ECI has suggested a few changes in the system we have prepared. They had also asked us to take the permission of the two
candidates who were contesting the elections and we have done so," Vardhan said.

The entire process will be offline and there will be no online relay of data, the official said.

Every voter including women wearing veils, who walk into the polling booth will be required to undergo the process.

"What this will do is to eliminate every chance of irregularity. We can also record the image of the voter on the voter roll along with the photo we have taken at the very
moment," a senior election official said, adding that bogus voting would be eradicated to a great degree with the system.

Vardhan also said that there was no question of spending much money on technology, both with regard to software and hardware.

"A state agency called the Goa Electronics Limited (GEL) has prepared this software. So, we did not have to engage anybody. And when it comes to hardware, things were even
simpler. We had given out netbooks to our talathis for conducting crop surveys," he said.

"We have adapted those netbooks so that we can use them for this electioneering purpose," Vardhan said.

The netbooks will be given to election officials, who have been trained in this regard, he said.

The Collector said that a computer-enabled voter facilitation centre was also being introduced for the first time for assisting voters.

"We have also started a voters facilitation centre at every polling booth, which will be computer equipped. Each voter will be able to search their name, serial number or part
number immediately at the click of a button," he said.

In all there are 17,912 registered voters in the Valpoi legislative Assembly constituency, which includes 9106 males and 8806 females.

Valpoi bypolls are being conducted after the local independent legislator Vishwajeet Rane, a minister in the state cabinet resigned joined the ruling Congress party. It
will see a straight fight between Rane and BJP`s Santosh Haldankar.