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Revising Electoral Rolls

It is heartening to discover that our former Chief Election Commissioner H. S. Brahma is in agreement with our stand that the electoral roll of any State should closely resemble the updated tiol Register of Citizens (NRC) as far as the mes in it are concerned. Obviously, the mes of those who are not yet old enough to be voters will not figure in the electoral roll, though their mes should appear in the NRC if the NRC is a fairly accurate record of all Indian tiols in a State. The issue acquires particular significance in the context of the present Chief Election Commissioner making a statement some months ago that the electoral roll had nothing to do with the updated NRC of Assam. Most Indians are somewhat bewildered at the need to have Aadhaar cards and Aadhaar registrations in addition to the electoral roll and the NRC registration. Many advanced countries have just one comprehensive list of citizens on the basis of which the electoral roll is also prepared. Since the NRC of 1951 for Assam is being updated, most people cannot help wondering why there should be an additiol listing of Indian citizens residing in Assam in the form of the Aadhaar enumeration. But since the Aadhaar listing has been taken up, people are anxious to ensure that their mes are on it. After all, one never knows what benefits could become uvailable to a citizen if his or her me were missing from the list. In Assam, a carefully and correctly updated NRC is of special significance because here we have a large number of Bangladeshi tiols who have got their mes entered in the electoral roll and are hell bent on getting their mes in the NRC as well. Former Chief Election Commissioner H. R. Brahma admitted recently that there was the possibility of the inclusion of mes of foreign tiols in the voters’ lists. He has expressed the view that since it has been proved that during the process of updating the NRC mes of foreign tiols had been included in the voters’ lists, the issue should be taken seriously. He has said that as soon as the process of updating the NRC is completed, the voters’ lists should be revised on the basis of it. He is of the view that it is the responsibility of the electoral registration officers to ensure that only mes of genuine Indian citizens should be included in the voters’ lists. He has said that it is unfortute that even mes of foreigners who were declared as foreigners by the tribuls set up under the provisions of the Foreigners’ Act were included in the voters’ lists. According to him, this proved that the electoral registration officers did not carry out their duties properly, and therefore, action should be taken against them for their failure to carry out their responsibility.
Former CEC Brahma should be thanked for doing three important things. First, he has shown the clear links that should exist between the electoral roll and the updated NRC. Second, he has drawn attention to the importance of keeping out the mes of foreigners from the voters’ lists as well as the updated NRC. Third, he has underscored the need for pel provisions for officers who had failed in their duties, not excluding deputy commissioners of districts who are also the district election officers and should have supervised the process of revision of electoral rolls. According to Brahma, they also failed in their responsibility. Until H.S. Brahma said what had to be said about the business of updating the NRC, the entire process had seemed like a pointless ritual to even some educated people. In making his statements about the electoral roll and the NRC, Brahma has underscored the fact that the government may have overdone certain steps that could have been simplified, but he has pointed out to all and sundry the importance of both the voters’ lists and the updated NRC being completely free of the mes of foreign tiols—a task that has been made infinitely more difficult by the thousands of smart foreigners who have already got their mes in the electoral roll of Assam and have already voted in quite a few Indian elections.

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Ankur Kalita