EVMs, 500 officials for big, fat Parsi polls
At Cusrow Baug, one contender pulled out a dummy machine and began explaining the nitty-gritties of the process.“Each booth has two EVMs because a single machine has only 16 slots and there are 23 candidates,“ he told the crowd of over a hundred senior citizens, some of whom had expressed fears of “rigging“.
The Times of India (Bombay) Oct 11 2015, Pages 1 and 4:
It’s not a touchscreen so `dabao’ the button for the red light to come on,“ he added. Since five out of seven seats are up for grabs, voters can select up to five candidates. An exhaustive set of EVM FAQs, created by the BPP’s election team, deals with every question imaginable from “Can I undo my selection?“ to “What if there is a power failure?“ to “Can I vote for the same candidate multiple times?“
Last year, India conducted the world’s largest election when 81.4 crore people-larger than the population of Europe — cast their vote in 9.3 lakh polling stations fitted with 14 lakh EVMs. This election might be diminutive in comparison — a maximum of 15,000 Parsis are expected to cast their vote at five centres fitted with 100 EVMs–but it’s being arranged with the same earnestness. “At each centre, there will be an in-charge polling officer and three to four assistant polling officers, who are established members of the community,“ says BPP Election President Mahiyar Dastoor.“The whole mobilization will be nearly 500 people, of which 230 will be polling agents from the candidates’ side, and a hundred IT support staff for the EVM machines.“ One booth in each centre will be reserved for handicapped voters, wheelchairs will be available at all polling stations and three ambulances will be on standby for elderly voters.
The entire process, which includes hiring EVMs and an external IT audit firm to oversee the polls, will cost the BPP almost Rs 25 lakh, says Dastoor. And the process will have to be repeated in six months’ time when one of the two currently occupied seats is vacated. On Election Day, people will have to show their election cards and a government-sanctioned ID, their name will be ticked off an online electoral roll and their forefinger will be marked with indelible ink.
Many view this as a make or break election because the current board’s rival factions have spent the majority of their terms blocking each other’s proposals and hurling allegations –and abuse — at each other. According to the editor of the Parsi Times Freyan Bhathena, “The fate of this community depends on these elections.“
Which is perhaps why for the first time in over a 100 years, the BPP has also created a voluntary code of conduct. It asks candidates to refrain from luring voters with expensive freebies like cell phones, laptops, flat screen TV sets, and refrigerators. In the past, some candidates even organized buffets and retro nights in Parsi baugs, while others wined and dined voters at swanky restaurants.It’s these extravagances, which led the code’s formulators to impose a cap of Rs 3 lakh on campaign expenditure.
Additionally , to avoid the mud-slinging that has shadowed past campaigns, the code also asks candidates to “restrict criticism to polices, programmes, past record and work only“. “The code of conduct has definitely made a difference. It is far more gentlemanly , far more orderly,“ says Jehangir Patel, who runs the community magazine Parsiana. Bhathena agrees though she credits the Parsi press for educating voters more than the newly-introduced code of conduct.
Community member Farrokh Jijina, however, says personal attacks continue but have simply switched mediums. “It’s there but it is surreptitious. Now, personal allegations are coming on Whatsapp and other social media.“