Donna and Joe have finished their assignment in India. Occasionally they still travel somewhere.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Election Day

India is quite proud of being the world's largest democracy. So I was surprised by the responce when I asked a few of my colleagues at lunch if they we're planning to vote in the elections for the Karnataka state assembly. Of the half a dozen young, well educated engineers sitting at the table with me, none planned to vote. (I did later find a few of my colleagues who planned to vote.) However my lunch partners had some interesting excuses. Apparently none was currently registered and would not because(select one or more) it would take too long; they would have to take off time from work; their domicile was somewhere else in India, they would have to pay a bribe to register. On the other hand the paper reported this evening that 60% of 17 million voters registered to vote today actually voted. The election of state assembly is being held in three phases, the first today covered Bangalore and surrounding areas. The second and third phases follow at 6 day intervals.
The day before the election I received the following advice by e-mail from the IBM-India people who take care of international assignees:
In view of the current political situation, you are requested to avoid travelling around historically sensitive areas in Bangalore. Eg - Commercial Street, Shivajinagar area.

We do not anticipate any trouble or tension as the State Police will be well prepared for a free, fair and peaceful election process. . .
This is to alert you to stay away from large crowds and political rallies and that you may exercise caution while shopping over the weekend. At any point in time if you need EMERGENCY HELP, please feel free to call the SOS number - +XX XXXXXXXXXX and we will be happy to assist you.

The state police have actually been hard at work leading up to the election. About every other day the paper had a story about confiscating liquor, sarees, gold jewelry and money and arresting persons allegedly planning to distribute the same to encourage voters to support their party. Liquor stores and bars have been closed for three days, either to clear the voters heads or to dry up the supply of alcohol for vote buying.
I snapped this picture of election workers and voters from across the street because I did not want to stand in the middle traffic to take the picture from any closer. This picture shows that their table is right on the edge of the road, as were most of the ones I saw. These tables are the first step in voting. Here your name is checked against the voter list and you are given a ticket with your name, address and voter number. Then you take your ticket to the actual polling place, an elementary school for this neighborhood. There they will check your proof of identity document. ( The paper today listed eighteen acceptable documents starting with your passport and ending with your family ration card.) At least in our neighborhood, actual voting is by pushing buttons on a voting machine.
The man in the blue and white shirt is the one who explained to me how the process works. This is also an official part of the process, although they have no sign to identify what they are or what blocks should register here. Although this table is sitting right on the road, traffic is not so heavy here. These tables are spread over about a half kilometer on either side of the school with the actual polling place. Each serves a few block area located somewhere in the total neighborhood served by the school.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fascinating juxtaposition of the nation's pride at being the largest democracy and apparently casual attitude of folks to actually participating in same.
Intriguing low tech polling place - "drive by" registration and/or voting.