India prepares to fight hate speech in world’s biggest election

August 13, 2018 2:06 AM

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Holding elections in world’s second most populous country is a complex and daunting task. The Election Commission has already begun preparations on logistic and security arrangements in the country of 1.3 billion, scheduled to elect their new federal government in April and May 2019.

About 875 million voters are eligible to cast their votes, or more than the combined population of Europe. As many as 11 million poll workers and security forces will facilitate the election process and ensure voting in a million polling stations, said Lavasa, one of the country’s three election commissioners.

For the first time, the commission is targeting people with disabilities, with ramps at all polling stations and voter cards in braille to enhance their electoral participation.

It also plans to set up more “pink polling booths” managed by women officials to motivate female voters, said Lavasa. The 2014 election created history with the highest ever female voter turnout of 65.63 per cent.

The commission is also concerned about the rise in incidents of bribery after it seized cash, liquor and gold in recent state assembly elections. It will launch a mobile app to help citizens file complaints easily by uploading photos of illegal activities, he said, adding more GPS-enabled surveillance teams will be deployed.

“India is currently passing through a challenging phase because of the massive rise of intolerance, religious hatred and abuse of social media,” said Niranjan Sahoo, a senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation think tank in New Delhi. “While the Election Commission’s intention is bold, it is not easy for it to enforce laws and tackle this menace.”


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