The US went to the polls in 2020. However, many voters weren’t satisfied with the results and the process. So, they launched a protest at the US Capitol within two months of the result. Now, this is the state of the oldest democracy in the world with some of the world’s most well-equipped forces and frontrunners in the latest technology.
On the other hand, a country like India- a relatively newer democracy with a huge population and a number of remote areas goes to polls every five years. And unlike the US, no voter feels dissatisfied with the fairness of the result of the process. The credit for making this possible goes entirely to the Election Commission of India.
What makes the Election Commission of India special?
Well, what it does every five years makes the Election Commission of India a special institution.
Take the 2019 Lok Sabha elections for instance. Over 90 crore people cast their vote across 10 lakh poll booths in 543 constituencies in the country.
Yet, no one ever faces a sense of insecurity regarding the elections because they are held in the fairest manner possible. And this exercise is carried out every five years, which makes it even more special. In fact, it is only due to the Election Commission of India’s efforts that the Indian democracy continues to prosper.
The challenges and the obstacles
And it is not just the enormity of the exercise, but also the challenges that make the Election Commission of India an underrated, overachiever.
Remember, India is the second most populous and seventh-largest country. So, the election process has to be held across a total area of 33 lakh square kilometers. Some of the polling is held in densely populated urban localities, whereas some of it is held in remote and far-flung areas like Ladakh and the Northeast.
And the Election Commission doesn’t have enough staff to manage this massive logistical exercise. So, it has to coordinate with over 2.5 lakh central forces personnel who use 25 helicopters, over 500 trains, 17,500 vehicles, hundreds of horses and mules, and several boats and ships at a total cost of around Rs. 200 crores.
The Union Home Ministry and the CRPF provide logistical support to the Election Commission of India (ECI). However, the ECI is the nucleus of the entire process. It decides how the resources have to be allocated and security personnel deployed to keep the process smooth and fair.
Months of meticulous planning
Finally, it is not just the logistics that matter. Months of planning go into organizing the election process because polling has to take place while keeping in mind the socio-economic circumstances.
Firstly, we ought to reiterate that India is a diverse country. Language and culture change at short distances, sometimes even within the same state. So, dates and other formalities must keep in mind local issues. You cannot hold elections in the middle of festivities because the voters might not get the time to go to the polling station. And remember, every individual region has its own festivals and its own calendar.
Then, the Election Commission of India also needs to keep the weather cycle in mind. Given the issue of floods and heavy snowfall in different parts of the country, the poll authority has to ensure that elections are held at a time when no part of the country is battling a natural disaster.
And lastly, there is this issue of security. Several parts of the country have been affected by terrorism and insurgency in the past.
Yet, Indian election rules mandate that no one should be made to travel over 2 km to exercise the right to vote. Therefore, Indian poll officials travel hundreds of miles in remote parts of the country to set up polling booths and facilitate voting. Be it the forests of Central India or the cold desert of Ladakh, everyone is given the opportunity to vote and that too in a convenient way.
The ECI is perhaps the only polling agency holding elections in such extraordinary circumstances. This is what makes the ECI the most under-appreciated and over-achieving institution in the country.