It has been a fortnight since the 2019 electoral process for the world’s largest democracy ended. For a country with about 900 million strong electorates, conducting a free and fair election is a massive exercise in itself.
As much as it is important that people exercise their right to vote, it is equally important that the process is smooth and the chances of foul play are absolutely eliminated.
Taking a step in the direction towards ensuring the same, Kannur district of Kerala had 100% video surveillance in its polling booths.
100% Video Surveillance
There are 1,857 polling booths in Kannur constituency. Out of these booths, 134 booths were identified to be critical, 1079 booths were termed sensitive, 279 as hypersensitive and 34 under Maoists threat.
The administration, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), BSNL and Kerala State Electricity, Kerala IT Mission among other authorities, joined hands to ensure a unique 100% polling booth video surveillance.
Speaking to The Logical Indian, Kannur District Collector Mir Mohammed Ali said that among the 1,857 polling booths, 1,841 had live webcasting, meaning operators could keep a real-time tab on the happenings at these booths. The remaining 16 booths, located mostly in remote hilly areas had videography.
“It was a huge challenge. BSNL was our main agency. There were 2000 people who had to be trained. Supervising these operators, we had about 200 people who were monitoring the screens all day,” said Mr Mir.
The preparation for this mammoth arrangement started a month before the D-day. The total expenditure was about 13 lakhs. Interestingly, students also volunteered as operators.
“Continous Monitoring of Booths”
DC Mr Mir and Superintendent of Police G Siva Vikram (IPS) were also available at the control room, overlooking the whole process. “We got hundreds of calls. Whenever we got a call, we would ask the Presiding Officer to stand in front of the camera and explain if there were any problems. If there were any argument, we could resolve them as well.”
An assisting voter votes on behalf of a blind, infirm person who can’t vote on his/her own, as per Rule 49N of the Conduct of Election Rules. Such voters get inked on their right index finger. “We saw a person who was there to assist an old lady who couldn’t vote on her own. We called the Presiding Officer to ask whether ink has been applied on both hands. When he said yes, we asked the voter to show both inked fingers to the camera. This approach ensured that the officers were alert throughout the polling day,” tells Mr Mir.
“After elections, based on the complaints of bogus voting, some of which received even 10 days after the polling day, we re-examined the footage and detected persons who had voted more than once and booked them all under 171F of Indian Penal Code.”
“In the previous elections too we had 65% of polling booths having video surveillance. This time around, with our past experience and proper planning in place, we were able to achieve 100% monitoring. It was also the result of groundwork laid by our predecessors who might have started with 5%-10%,” said Mr Mir when asked if a similar system can be put together in other parts of the country.
The Logical Indian appreciates the administration and all the agencies involved for conducting such mammoth exercise, thereby ensuring a free and fair election in the truest sense.
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