Major revision of electoral rolls in Rajasthan

JAIPUR NOV. 1. The exercise of correcting electoral rolls by reading out names aloud at ward sabhas and gram sabhas in rural areas has yielded dramatic results in Rajasthan. The drive, undertaken from August 25 to September 1, has led to correction of as many as 7 lakh entries in the State's electoral rolls.

Initiated after a meeting of the Chief Election Commissioner, J.M. Lyngdoh, with representatives of activist groups such as Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan(MKSS) on July 17 here, the revisions resulted in addition of 3.9 lakh names and deletion of 3.7 lakh names from the voters' list.

The method of reading out in public, which is akin to public auditing of development funds carried out by MKSS, not only enthused the general public in Rajasthan but also highlighted the great potential of the process in ensuring the citizens' right to vote.

Mr. Lyngdoh, who was here a fortnight ago, himself conceded while talking to the media that the process led to substantial corrections.

"The results show the immense potential where the citizens are given greater opportunity to participate in ensuring a clean electoral process," Nikhil Dey, an activist with MKSS, observes. "The sacrosanct right to vote solely depends on your presence in the electoral rolls."

Surveys by groups such as the Lok Satta in Andhra Pradesh and the Association for Democratic Reforms in Ahmedabad suggest that 30-40 per cent incorrect entries exist in electoral rolls in urban centres while in rural areas they ranged from 15-20 per cent. The Election Commission too acknowledges this as an area of concern. In his interaction here on July 17 Mr. Lyngdoh said that despite the best efforts numerous roll revision campaigns in the past by the Commission only left the task unfinished.

The enormity of the revision process could be gauged from the fact that Rajasthan has 1 lakh wards and an electorate of 339.12 lakh voters. Perhaps that was why the Chief Electoral Office of Rajasthan, Lalit Kothari, even while accepting the potential of the public audit method felt that the time was too short for carrying out any more revisions of the kind prior to the upcoming elections.

While undertaking similar initiatives in other States, civil society groups such as Parivartan of Delhi found the methodology difficult to work in urban centres.

According to Arvind, an activist from Delhi, this was because in villages the people know each other while in the cities it is not the case.

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