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Gujarat planning to launch e-voting facility in panchayat polls

Ahmedabad: Gujarat government is now planning to extend the e-voting facility to panchayat polls, despite the lukewarm response it got in the recent municipal polls.

At present, the e-voting facility is available only for voters of all the eight municipal corporations in the state. Voters of District, Taluka and Gram Panchayats are not given this facility yet.

However, before taking a decision, the state Panchayats Department has started an exercise to collect information from across India as well as from the other countries to find out
the feasibility of this project.

According to Minister for Panchayat and Rural Development Jayanti Kavadia, information about Internet connectivity in rural parts of state is also being collected by his department.

“Our department is at present collecting information about whether such facility is in place in any other part of India or in the world, and how it is being handled there. Such information is crucial for us to find out the road map to implement e-voting in Gujarat,” said Kavadia.

In the recently concluded local body polls across Gujarat, e-voting was introduced by Gujarat State Election Commission (SEC) for polling in six municipal corporations.

However, it received a lukewarm response, as only 806 people preferred to vote online out of a total of 95.9 lakh voters in these six urban bodies.

Gujarat SEC has been the first in the country to allow online voting facility for voters of municipal corporation areas of the state.

This facility was first offered to voters in the year 2010. The recently concluded local body polls were the second election where voters were given the facility to vote online without coming to the polling booth by registering themselves with the SEC on their website and follow procedures.

The election body has also prepared itself if the Panchayat Department gives a go ahead for e-voting in future, said SEC Secretary M V Joshi.

“We have introduced the e-voting in municipal corporations five years back after the Urban Department issued a notification regarding the same. To avail this facility in panchayat polls, the Panchayat department needs to issue such a notification,” said Joshi.

“Recently, SEC floated a tender to find a new service provider of e-voting. In case the Panchayat department issues a notification, SEC will have no problem to implement e-voting
there, as the new service provider has to do that as per our terms and conditions,” added Joshi.

According to Kavadia, many factors need to be taken into account before taking the decision.

“Before taking the final decision, we are collecting various information about Internet connectivity in rural areas of Gujarat. We are also collecting information about various technical requirements for this facility,” said Kavadia.

“After collecting all such information, we will share it with SEC as well as other departments to seek their opinion. Final decision to implement this facility will be taken as per these opinions,” added Kavadia.