Monday, June 17, 2024

Poll Body Chief Rajiv Kumar


Use of 5.6 million EVMs in the elections has saved thousands of tonnes of paper.

New Delhi:

The ongoing Lok Sabha polls is probably the ‘hottest’ election in India’s history, thanks to the scorching heat.

The elections, however, are definitely the most eco-friendly elections that have been ever held in the world’s largest democracy and Indians should be proud of that fact.

“Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” is an integral motto for environmentally sound election management practices, asserts the Election Commission of India (EC).

“Thanks to many environment friendly initiatives undertaken by the Election Commission of India, there is no doubt that the 2024 General Elections are the eco-friendly elections. Other than saving of huge paper due to use of EVMs, electronic means of filing complaints, directions were given for no use of single use plastic in electoral process,” said Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar

“India has now set a new global benchmark for holding environmentally sustainable elections with a low carbon footprint’. Many eco-friendly polling stations were also set up” said Mr Kumar.

Rajiv Kumar has been at the helm since 2022 and holds a master’s degree in sustainability among his many qualifications. Mr Kumar has worked in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and was part of National Mission on Afforestation.

His other colleagues are also technocrats with green ideas: Dr Sukhbir Singh Sandhu is a medical graduate and Shri Gyanesh Kumar is a trained civil engineer from IIT-Kanpur.

The use of 5.6 million EVMs in the elections has saved thousands of tonnes of paper. Each machine has a life of 15 years and easily three Parliamentary elections can be conducted using the same machines, in addition to three assembly elections. This makes the EVMs highly environmentally sustainable.

That paper wastage has been avoided is another positive aspect of deploying EVMs.

As per the Narrative Report of 17th Lok Sabha General Elections 2019 – which refers to General Elections 2004 – replacing the erstwhile voting method of using ballot papers, 1.075 million EVMs were used in 543 Parliamentary and 697 Assembly Constituencies making 14th General Elections fully electronic for the first time.

The use of EVMs in General Elections 2004, it states, saved around 1,50,000 trees which would have been cut for production of about 8000 tonnes of paper for printing the ballot papers if traditional system of ballot box was adopted.

During the period from 2004 to 2024 the elector base has increased from about 67.1 crores to 96.9 crores, i.e. an increase of 44.5%. Going by this, we may estimate that the use of EVMs in the ongoing Lok Sabha Elections, 2024 has contributed to the savings of about 11,520 tonnes of paper and prevented cutting down of about 2.15 lakh trees. This is a whopping lot paper.

The Election Commission has issued advisories on several occasions urging political parties and candidates to use only environment-friendly material and to avoid single-use plastic and non-biodegradable material. Noise pollution has also been minimal as political parties minimised the use of loudspeakers going around on vehicles and moved a lot of the campaigning to social media.

Protecting the environment is not an individual task but a collective responsibility and hence the EC urges all the political parties to avoid the use of plastic/polythene and similar non-biodegradable materials for preparation of posters, banners, etc.

With digitisation of various processes like online facilitation for registration of voters; Apps like Voter Helpline App, SUVIDHA portal, KYC App, cVigil, e-EPIC, PwD app, Voter Turnout App; online nomination facility for candidates; avoiding single use plastic in display materials for voter awareness; ensuring proper waste disposal management; has endeavoured to ensure environment friendly elections.

A major push has been given for eco-friendly infrastructure, with many local election officers adopting LED lighting, rainwater harvesting systems and solar panels in their office premises and EVM warehouses.

When the election dates were announced, the poll body had said that directions have been issued to the poll machinery to ensure “environmentally sustainable elections”.

“There should be no waste visible at polling stations across the country after casting of votes. It should be collected and disposed of as per rules. Less and less paperwork and how can we reduce the carbon footprint through recycling is our commitment and responsibility towards the environment,” said Mr Kumar.

The poll body actively promoted environmentally sustainable elections during the continuing Lok Sabha and assembly polls. Indeed, India should be proud of the global example it has set by holding environmentally clean and green elections.

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