New Delhi: In another
technological leap forward from the 2009 general elections when it
had launched the COMET online monitoring system, the Election
Commission of India now hopes to supervise the 2014 national
elections - the largest democratic exercise in the world - with a
coded SMS-based alert system.
"We hope to use it in the next general elections," Deputy Election
Commissioner Alok Shukla told IANS.
According to Shukla, the Communication Plan for Election (COMET),
which aimed at creating a database of mobile phone numbers of
around 1.1 million government officials deployed for the 2009
general elections so that the poll panel could reach them quickly,
has transformed into a high-tech SMS-based alert system.
The system uses coded messages to collect data about officials on
duty. It also helps in monitoring events down to a particular
polling booth at the click of a mouse.
The new system was first used in the assembly polls in Goa,
Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Manipur in early 2012 and
in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat towards the year-end.
Shukla said the new system works by and large successfully and the
officials concerned had to be called only in 10 percent of the
cases for resolving the complaints reported.
"COMET consisted of a control room used to collect mobile phone
numbers of around 1.1 million government officials on poll duty
and helped us coordinate with them. The sms-based monitoring
system has reduced the workload tremendously," Shukla said.
According to the official, the new system uses coded text messages
through mobile phones to collect data about officials, information
about scheduled events like staff reaching the polling station,
mock poll conducted, start of polling, voting percentages every
two hours, number of voters in queue after voting time was over,
and whether the poll party reached safely at the high security
Electronic Voting Machine (EVMs) deposit centre.
"Officials on the ground just need to punch in a few letters to
send various coded SMSes. The information is instantly available
online and can be used by the commission and poll officials in the
state capital and districts," Shukla told IANS.
In case of an unforeseen event such as malfunctioning of EVMs,
problems in the voter list or a law and order problem, the system
alerts the superintendent of police and the police inspector of
the area concerned through an sms.
"When a law and order problem is reported, quick response of the
police and the commission matters a lot," said Shukla.
Information related to the scheduled and unforeseen events is
relayed to all the poll officials deployed in a particular area,
However, in remote areas, where the mobile phones don't work, oll
officials have to reach the nearest telephone to inform the call
centre located in the state capital.
(Amit Agnihotri can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)