The Election Commission of India in association with the High Commission of India, Pretoria; Consulate General of India, Johannesburg and Electoral Commission of South Africa, participated in an international virtual seminar on “Story of World’s Largest Democracy’s Election” in India on 30th November 2021. The Webinar was attended by over 50 participants from the Indian diaspora, academicians and students from different universities in South Africa.
In his keynote Address, Shri Sushil Chandra, Chief Election Commissioner of India stated that conducting elections in India is a mammoth task with over 937 million registered electors in the country by now. He added that ECI sets up polling booths within walking distance of every village, hamlet and habitation with the aim of ‘No Voter to be Left Behind’. While sharing the experience of conducting elections in six states amidst the COVID pandemic, Shri Chandra mentioned several initiatives adapted to ensure smooth conduct of elections despite challenges posed. He highlighted steps like curtailing the maximum number of voters at a polling station from 1500 to 1000 and extending polling hours by an hour in order to decongest polling spaces; postal ballot facility for 80+ senior citizens, PwDs and COVID affected individuals where ECI literally brought the polling station to their doorstep. Shri Sushil Chandra also gave an insight into the participation of women in Indian elections, which has seen remarkable increase over the years.
Shri Chandra also pointed out ECI’s efforts at digitization & use of technology, citing example of Electronic Voting Machines, VVPATs and mobile apps like c-vIGIL app for citizens to report violation of Model Code of Conduct; the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System facility for service voters and those posted at our missions abroad.
Shri Umesh Sinha, Secretary General, ECI made a presentation on the Webinar’s theme on conduct of elections in India. He gave an overview of the different facets of election management to ensure inclusive, participative, and accessible elections. He showcased the targeted interventions to reach out to electors and other stakeholders with a 360 degree communication plan to handle elections of this magnitude.
In his opening remarks, Mr Jaideep Sarkar, High Commissioner of India to South Africa stressed upon the Indo- South Africa cooperation over the years and the shared history. Mr. V G Mashinini, Chairman, Election Commission of South Africa spoke about the importance of strengthening democracy and exchange of information as also about the pivotal roles played by the Election Commission in both India & South Africa.
ECI is presently the Chair of Association of World Election Bodies where EC of South Africa is the Vice Chair of AWEB. The Election Commission of India and Electoral Commission of South Africa enjoy warm and friendly relations. Both the institutions signed a Memorandum of Understanding in October 2011 for mutual cooperation in the field of Electoral Management and Administration. Under this framework, both the EMBs have exchanged good practices from time to time in different fields of Electoral Management.
A short film titled ‘Making of Indian Constitution’ to commemorate the Constitution Day was also screened during the webinar.