Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Election Commission India's Voter Helpline app - a Great tool !

Election day in India is always like a festival. You can see autorickshaws offering free rides to the elderly and disabled people from home to the polling venue. You can see people queuing up early in the morning at the polling booths, to avoid long queues. You can see party members getting ready and setting up their "May I help you" kiosks around the polling venue. 

It's election day in Tamilnadu, today. This time, all of us in my family got our voting slips, except for my wife. If you don't know what a voting slip is... it is a slip that helps the poll booth officer to quickly identify your voter record in the ledger (which appears like the Chitragupta's book of records). The voting slip has serial number that helps the poll booth officer to tracer your voter record in the ledger. This serial number is different from your "Voter Identification Number". If you go to the polling booth without the voter slip, the poll booth officer would take a longer time to identify your voter record and it may unnecessarily delay your voting process. Normally, the different parties that are contesting in the election would give you a copy of the voting slip, at your door step. There are elections where we had 4 or 5 copies of the same voting slip in our hand. However, this time, none of the parties distributed any voting slip. Probably, they were trying to go green or they were busy distributing cash :) A government representative ended up handing over the voting slips to my family members - but somehow, my wife's slip was missed out. 

I thought we can get the voting slip in one of the "May I help you" kiosks setup by the party functionaries, outside of the polling venue. I went to one of those kiosks. They said, I've to visit the kiosk in my street, to get my wife's voting slip. We rushed back to our street, but didn't see any kiosk in our street. When we checked with a couple of people in my street, they redirected me to the next street. Finally, I found a kiosk in the next street. The guy in the kiosk took my wife's Voter Id and scanned through the different pages in the ledger... and after spending 10 minutes he said, "Sir! We couldn't find your wife's record. But, you can still go to the booth and cast your vote". I felt like the Kamalahaasan in Indian movie, who gets tossed around to different government departments, to get some basic stuff done. 

We again rushed back to the polling venue. By this time, the morning sun has pierced my skin to get the juice flowing out of my body. I made my wife stand in the voters' queue and quietly sat under a tree nearby with my mobile phone. I was searching in Google for voter's slip. I found a website, http://www.electoralsearch.in/, but it was incredibly slow. It reminded me of the days, when we used to type "http://www.yahoo.com", in Internet Explorer, go to college canteen, have a tea and come back to see the page fully rendered. After nearly 10 minutes, the page displayed. I filled all the details of my wife's Voter Id and was about to click the "Search" button. The webpage asked me to enter a "Captcha" without showing any "Captcha". I hit the refresh button again. This time, it showed the Captcha properly. I entered all the details properly and hit "Search". After taking 10 minutes, the website reported that the record could not be found. I was disappointed and frustrated with the experience. 

I started Googling again, and found the "Voter Helpline" application. I downloaded it from the app store in a few seconds and punched-in my wife's Voter Id details. It immediately displayed the Serial Number of my wife's voter record in the ledger. I took a piece of paper, wrote the Serial number and handed it over to my wife, who was still in the queue, which was crawling like a wounded snake. The poll booth officer was able to quickly identify her record in the ledger, using the Serial number. Voter Helpline app is a great tool for the voters. I wish they make a computer or a mobile phone with the Voter Helpline app loaded, and keep it outside the polling venues. It will greatly help the voters and save a lot of time for the voters and the officials manning the polling booth.