EC to examine if indelible ink can be discontinued
Concerned about possible reprisals by Maoist rebels against voters in the November assembly polls, the Chhattisgarh election office has asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to consider relaxing a rule requiring the use of indelible ink in areas where the rebels are active.
The semi-permanent ink is applied to the forefinger of electors to prevent them from voting more than once under rules mandated by the ECI . The stain lasts several days before starting to fade.
According to officials aware of the development, the chief election officer of Chhattisgarh, which has 14 areas where leftwing extremists are active, has asked the Commission to take a call on whether use of the ink could be discontinued in these areas. “The EC is expected to take a call on whether this suggestion can be accepted and relay the same to the law ministry. If it is found tenable, then it will require a change in section 49(K) of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961,” said an official, requesting anonymity.
Maoists are opposed to the electoral process and have in the past attacked people who voted. The use of indelible ink makes it easy to identify people who
turned up at the polling booths to exercise their franchise.
Polling to pick a new assembly in Chhattisgarh will be conducted in two phases. On November 12, polling will be held in 18 constituencies that are located in areas under the grip of left-wing extremism (LWE); and the remaining 72 constituencies will go to the polls on November 20.
“Threats are issued to the locals in the LWE areas to boycott the elections, failing which the Maoists threaten to chop off their fingers if they are found with ink marks. Voters whose fingers are marked with the indelible ink are vulnerable to attacks,” the official
cited above said.
This is not the first time that such a request has been made; similar concerns were put forth by the election officials of the state ahead of the 2013 assembly polls as well as the 2014 general election. However, both times the indelible ink that is made by Mysore Paints and Varnish Limited was used.
Former chief election commissioner HS Brahma said the issue was very sensitive; it may not be feasible to discontinue the use of indelible ink as it is the only sureshot way of ensuring that no bogus voting takes place, he said.