The 12-part radio series titled ‘My Vote My Right’ was produced by Radio Active CR 90.4 MHz to raise voter awareness and to become a source of fundamental electoral information. The initiative was taken up at the invitation of the UNESCO Chair on Community Media and University of Hyderabad, who were working in collaboration with the Election Commission of India (ECI). Radio Active was one of 25 community radio stations from 16 states in India to be selected to pilot this project.
In preparation, RJ Usha and RJ Manjula attended a 3-day Workshop on Community Radio and Electoral Literacy at the University of Hyderabad from February 22-24, 2019, organised by the UNESCO Chair on Community Media, in partnership with the Election Commission of India.
This radio series is a part of the larger Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) programme of the ECI, in partnership with the UNESCO Chair, designed to promote voter awareness and citizen participation in the electoral process through community radio stations across the country.
Episode 1: Understanding the Idea of ‘Democracy
This episode features a ‘jagalikatte’ scene and a talk by Priyanka Mathur about the elections and understand the word Democracy.
“To understand the importance of Democracy, just think of a state without Democracy. Imagine all that you have today was not there! Today, we are able to sit and talk about Democracy on a radio show and share our opinions. In many other countries and regions, citizens don’t have the right to even talk about Democracy. So, let us value what we have. We are responsible for voting and bringing to power the so-called leaders; if they misuse their power, then in the next elections, use your vote so that they won’t come to power again.”
How does Democracy work? “We follow the Federal Democracy model – the ideas of power and decision-making are not centralised and are not related to one group. It flows downwards to all the various parts of the Government which are part of the decentralised federal form of Government. We are one of the most robustly functioning Democracies in the world which follows this decentralised federal model of Government. We are a model for many other countries. However, there are various issues which have to be addressed and no democratic system is perfect anywhere.”
‘Right’ and ‘Responsibility’ are like two sides of the same coin. We have to make sure that we know what our responsibilities are and what our rights are. That’s why we should not miss the chance to vote! If we choose the right person and vote, then we can build good governance.
Episode 2: A Call for Correct Documents, Involving Post Offices, and Digitisation
This episode features about importance of voter registration and updating one details in existing ID’s.
A furnished Form 16 with a colour photograph with address proof, age proof and Aadhar Card
“To make changes in the existing voter card, a Form 8 needs to be filled and submitted and for shifting the address in the same polling constituency, a Form 8A needs to be submitted. To register after shifting to a new polling constituency, a Form 6 needs to be submitted along with the old voter ID card. For NRIs, Form 6 needs to be submitted as an Overseas Indian Elector, and to cancel any deceased voter ID card, a Form 7 needs to be submitted. This will help you vote and stop others from voting in your name. The right documents are critical.” Delay in voter registration is a huge problem in many places.
They also highlight the fact of involving Postal Departments and Bangalore One for voter registration. Anjali Saini from the ‘Million Voter Rising’ group comments on the lack of technology in the voting process. “Let’s involve more technology and minimise the use of paper. The Million Voter Rising group has also suggested that we should go fully online and do random checking and fine levying to address cheating.”
Episode 3: Rising Feminisation of Electorate is Promising, But All Genders Need Equitable Representation
This episode speaks about PWD and the Persons with Disability App. “This app has inbuilt accessibility features and it can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. Eligible citizens with disabilities can register as PWD voters. Already registered PWD electors can register as PWD voters and avail a wheelchair and other facilities better. They can also launch their complaints through this app. The idea behind providing such facilities to citizens is to ensure that no eligible and legitimate voter is left behind. A disability should not make you miss your political rights.” Other categories of voters include women, sexual minorities and transgender persons.
This particular election cycle has been tagged with terms like ‘nari power’, ‘shakti’, and more, and is expected to bring about many changes in terms of inclusion as more and more women are coming out to vote.
Thankfully, a silent feminisation of the electorate is happening, which means that more and more women are coming out to vote. “In Karnataka, we now know the dates of the elections, so we have to encourage women to vote. In 2014, there was a lower percentage of voting and this time we have to make sure that everyone votes. Women’s votes really matter, which is why we are witnessing a lot of women-specific schemes being rolled out at the central and state levels. Women, apparently, have been the biggest beneficiaries of the Swachh Bharat Mission and the Pradhan Mantri Ujwal Yojana. In Karnataka, subsidised loans were provided to women entrepreneurs. All of these significant policy changes show that women are capable of independent political choices and the factors influencing women’s voting goes way beyond caste and community calculus.”
Episode 4: Voters Must Take a ‘No Note’ Pledge to Ensure Ethical Voting
This episode speaks about ethics involved in the voting process. “Everyone should avoid the influence of liquor, money and other gifts distributed by political parties because bribing for votes is a legal offence The voter should avoid getting influenced by family members as well and they should check the promises made by the party candidates and read their manifestos. We should also avoid any influence on the basis of caste, community and religion.
Ethical Voting is integral to the functioning of a Democracy – only sincere voting should be acceptable, and buying, selling and trading of votes is inherently wrong. The principals of ethical administration are that there should be demonstratable respect for law and that the election administration must be non-party affiliated, neutral, transparent, accurate and designed to serve the voters only. “There are three dimensions to electoral participation – it should be ethical, it should be inclusive and it should be informed. Unethical behaviour is a vicious cycle because if a party is distributing money to influence the voter, then the voter will end up always expecting more and more money. This cycle is broken only when if a voter takes a ‘No Note’ pledge.”
Episode 5: Look Beyond Caste and Religion, Vote For Better Policies
In this episode Dr. Priyanca Mathur says, voting is a very important legal right and when you are casting your vote you should avoid influences, particularly of being influenced by family members and communities. It is an informed and individual decision so we should be aware that we should not be influenced by community and family members. We should also check the promises the parties have made and what are they promising us in their manifestos. Also avoid influences on the basis of caste, religion and communities. Political parties since 1947 have been moving voters on the basis of religion; very often it was said that the Triple Talaq Bill was pushed by the current government simply to appeal to the minority group and communities. It is for us to discern what the truth is.
Voting behaviour has traditionally been influenced by political science theories based on religion, community, caste, money, language, policy, and ideology. Political parties make use of these variables for the sake of winning the battle of the ballot box. Despite committing to secularism, we often find politicians appealing to the religious and communal sentiments of the people. Another main factor that can influence voters is the charisma of a leader – the exceptional quality that can make a person the main attraction. People start to worship the leader and their perceived leadership.
Caste continues to be another important determinant of voting behaviour in India. Caste cuts a deep route into the Indian society and it constitutes an important basis of social relations at all levels, despite the adoption of several provisions which prohibit action and discrimination on its basis
The establishment of a secular state gave the right of freedom of religion to everyone, treating every religion as equal and the non-recognition of any religion as a state religion. India is a multi-lingual state, and linguism serves as a factor in voting behaviour as well.
Episode 6: EC Has Made Many Efforts to Make These Elections Barrier-Free and Inclusive
“Guided by the motto that no voter should be left behind, the Election Commission Officer has ordered that the election machinery in the state should arrange for transport and residence on the polling day to ensure voters’ participation in the process. Close to 3.5 lakh disabled persons have approached the chief electoral officer and they have been responding to all the queries. To make our elections more inclusive, the Commission has been reaching out to all vulnerable groups.
“During elections, at the polling stations, we will have water facility, medical facilities for emergencies, helpers for people with disabilities, sign interpreters and booth mirrors. People also can book vehicles from their home if they are unable to commute. Booth-level officers will take care of all of the above-mentioned things.”
“In the Rights of Disability Act, 2016, it is mentioned that people with disability should vote and it is very important that they cast their vote. They can go on their own, or if they need help, people will be available. For people who cannot commute, vehicle support will be given. This time, the Election Commission has initiated an app and people can request for any facilities needed through it. “People who are blind will have to mention in advance that they need election slips printed in Braille.
The Election Commission has come up with ‘Assured Minimum Facilities’ (AMF). This is the link to the website: https://eci.gov.in/pwd/pwd-articles/assured-minimum-facilities/amf-assured-minimum-facilities-r4/
Episode 7: The 11 Photo ID Cards that will Help You Vote
“To participate in elections, we must add our names to the electoral roll as soon as one reaches 18 years of age. Every year, the list of voters is renewed. There are different forms available online and also with the Zilla Officer, Taluk Office, to add, remove, change address, and other details. Booth-level officers will be at all polling booths, so if needed, one can take and fill the form and submit it along with address proof, date of birth, and other details. After this, your name will be added to voters’ list and they will give you an Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC). If a name is mentioned in the voters’ list, then an EPIC is not needed. ID cards from different Government Departments can also be used as reference ID cards.”
In case one doesn’t have a voter ID card, then a photo ID card and a voter slip will be enough to vote.
Passport, driving license, service identity cards with photograph issued to employees by the Central or the State Government, or PSUs or Public Limited Companies, passbooks with photograph issued by a bank or a post office, PAN Card, Smart Card issued by the Registrar General of India (RGI) under the National Population Register (NPR), MGNREGA job card, health insurance smart card issued under the scheme of Ministry of Labour, pension document with photograph, official identity cards issued to MPs/ MLAs/ MLCs and Aadhaar Card, the government release.
Episode 8: Understanding the EVM and VVPAT Machines
“Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are game-changers in elections, with an entire nation hooked on, and awaiting results from them. Since 1999, EVMs began to be deployed in Indian elections, gradually replacing paper ballots in local, state and parliamentary polls. Since 2000, they have been used in three Lok Sabha elections and 113 Assembly polls.
For the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Bharat Electronics Ltd. and
Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. have delivered EVMs to 10.6 lakh polling
stations across India. However, many political parties and technical experts
continue to question the reliability of EVMs.
Recently, the Chief Election Commissioner, Sunil Arora fumed that EVMs were being “tossed like a football” in the political discourse. Arora claimed that the Election Commission (EC) was pulling all stops to reduce instances of malfunctioning and that these instances were not of deliberate “tampering”.
Now, what is the EVM?
The EVM is a friendly-looking machine that offers you a button to opt for a candidate. It has two units – a control unit with the polling officer, and a balloting unit wherein the voter casts his vote. The polling officer activates the control unit so that you can cast your vote in the balloting unit. As soon as you hit the button for the candidate you wish to pick, you automatically lock the machine.
Episode 9: Persons with No Fixed Addresses Can Also Cast Their Vote
This episode also features an interaction between waste workers and Kathyayini Chamaraj, who is a civic activist and a Trustee at CIVIC. She talks about complaints, violations, and malpractices during the electoral process.
“If a person has been staying in a place for more than 6 months, then they have the right to vote, but here we need an accurate address to be mentioned in the voters’ list. Unfortunately for people living in such areas, having a set address is rare and difficult. The Representation of the People Act mentions that the persons living under a flyover or under a street light have the right to vote because all of us are citizens of India. When such persons want to add their names to the voters’ list, they will need to fill Form 6; their applications may get rejected, however, if they have no documents to provide. The officers are supposed to take the forms and documents and give the applicants acknowledgment slips with reference numbers. She also specifies that though one may have a voter ID, one can vote only in the vicinity of the address mentioned in the ID card.
She also mentions how a candidate should submit details of their history of education, wealth, any police records, and any instances of communal activities to an election officer. Also, a new rule states that if any criminal cases against a candidate are pending, then they should publish that in a newspaper. “It is by reading about these details that we become aware voters, not by taking a bribe for each vote.
Episode 10: Higher Number of Women Voters Will Make a Difference
“In the upcoming elections, I request all women to vote in more and more numbers. There is an app called ‘Election’ through which you can know which is your polling station as well as the location of the hospitals and police stations nearby. At the polling station, water facility, a help desk, and shady areas to sit in while waiting in a long line will be available.”
She also mentions about the voting process inside the polling booth, starting from showing your ID card to casting your vote. “After 18 years of age, anyone can vote after registering their name in the roll. At 18, one is expected to have the information needed to choose the right person to vote for. So, know about your candidate and cast your vote responsibly. I also request all sexual minorities to vote.”
Episode 11: Every Voter’s Duty is to be Well-Informed and Honest
This episode features an interaction between Kathyayini Chamaraj with the housekeeping staff at the Jain University building on Palace Road. She highlights facts relating to the importance of registration of names on the voters’ list and the value of a vote itself.
Kathyayini also emphasised the effects of voting after taking bribes – how it directly affects all citizens and how we cheat ourselves out of our basic duties.
She also detailed the ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) option on the voting machines. She brought up Association of Democratic Reforms, which is a platform where details of all candidates are mentioned and where voters can go through candidate profiles.
“We should learn to question the candidate who has won the elections in the ward committee meeting which happens every month. As the English proverb says, “Eternal Vigilance is the price we pay for Democracy”.
Episode 12: My Vote My Right with Sanjeev Kumar, Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka
“The Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) is designed with a set of technical specifications. Its working will be demonstrated in front of political parties, and using sealed containers, police security, and electronic GPS tracking, it will be sent to respective polling booths. In front of the political parties again, the machines will be removed and placed in the booth and before elections, mock polls will be held three times and will be updated on sheets. These machines don’t have wireless connections and no radio waves can be connected to hack the system. From the beginning to the end, no one can touch these machines because they are highly protected by the central police, state police and other candidates of political parties. Each EVM and VVPAT will have a multi-digital number with which we can recognise the machines and where they are being used.”
Each instrument, after the first-level checking and mock checking, will be paper-sealed – this is a special one, like our currency note. This is prepared in the Government Press and this also has a multi-digital number attached. Political party representative will add numbers and cross-check them during counting so that no one messes up.
“On election day, voting starts at 7 am, but before that, at 6 am, a mock voting process will be conducted in front of political party representatives. There is no worry about hacking the system as on the last date of candidate withdrawal, while preparing final candidates’ buttons, no party can know the location of their button on the EVM.”