Wednesday, May 12, 2004
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By Lalit K. Jha
NEW DELHI, MAY 11. The novelty of polling through electronic voting machines (EVMs) impressed foreign diplomats from various developed and Third World counties when they visited a number of polling booths across the Capital on Monday.
The Election Commission had issued special passes to some 70 diplomats from various countries including Japan, Norway, Angola, Chile and Malaysia, besides a delegation from the European Union (EU) to get a first-hand experience of the world's biggest democratic exercise.
The diplomats, who were split into three batches, began their journey early in the morning from the polling booths in Lutyens' Delhi -- namely Raghubir Junior Modern School, Humayun Road; Talkatora Club near Talkatora Indoor Stadium and St. Columba's School. Thereafter, they moved to various polling booths situated in Modern School, Poorvi Marg, Sri Ram School, Vasant Vihar and the Senior Secondary School, Moti Nagar. Some of the foreign delegates even expressed their desire to witness the polling process in rural areas of the Capital.
They were taken to two polling centres at villages in South Delhi. Apparently impressed by the manner in which the rural people were eager to exercise their franchise standing in long queues, some of the diplomats also went to the hypersensitive polling booths at Kanchanpuri on Yamuna Pushta. They had never expected a fair-like situation. "This is the greatest festival of the largest democratic country of the world," one of the Japanese diplomats was quoted as saying by one of the officials from the Election Commission accompanying them.
While the foreign diplomats from African and Third World countries were impressed with the novelty of EVMs and the fact that even illiterates were able to cast their vote without any hitch, those from the developed world -- including those from the EU -- were highly enamoured of the manner in which the poorest of the poor were standing in queues with the photo identity cards, many of them torn out and half burnt, eager to push the ballot button.
They were surprised when informed that many of these voters had travelled two to three hours and changed buses to reach the polling stations, just because they were angry with the manner in which they had been evicted from the banks of the Yamuna. "This is people's power at work," another diplomat remarked.
The Japanese delegation was more curious about the Electoral Photo Identity Card carried by the voters at the polling stations. Some of them even had a feel of the photo card and compared it with the system available in their country. One of them wanted to know the entire procedure and the manner in which the card is being prepared. "On the other hand, diplomats from the Third World countries wanted to know if the system of EVMs can be implemented in their country," the official said.
After the polling process was over at 5 p.m., the delegates went to the reception-cum-counting centre at Siri Fort to see the way the EVMs were being received and kept in the strong room. They later had a reception in the evening where they shared their experiences with top officials from the Election Commission.
But the learning process is not over as yet for them. Many of these delegates would be coming right back to the New Delhi Lok Sabha seat counting centre on Mandir Marg on May 13 to get an experience of how the results are declared. And the victory processions which follow will be a bonus.
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