The Election Commission in Uttar Pradesh has begun identifying centres in urban areas, such as internet cafes, from where voters can register for an electoral card for a small fee of Rs 10.
After the formalities are completed, the voter will either be personally delivered the EPIC by a booth-level officer (BLO) or through post.
The move is aimed at making the process of issuing of Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPIC) more transparent, easy and accessible to the people.
“The objective of the plan is to give an ‘urban touch’ to the process. We wish to see a centre in every ward in urban areas,” said UP Chief Electoral Officer Umesh Sinha. The scheme is part of a larger plan to take the process down to the ward level in urban areas and to the nyay panchayat level in rural areas. Currently, the system works at the tehsil level, where Electoral Registration Officers are stationed.
“In the first phase, the process will be taken to the block level and gradually, implemented at the ward and nyay panchayat level in subsequent phases,” Sinha said. The internet cafes will be selected on the basis of infrastructure, number of working computers and other facilities.
In rural areas, the commission seems to be working with equal zest. “For rural areas, we are in talks with companies which extend e-governance schemes under the Government of India’s National e-Governance Plan, through their Common Service Centres (CSCs),” Sinha said.
These are Sahaj e-Village, CMS Computers and Vayam Technologies, and together, they have more than 11,000 CSCs in the state. As per the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), nearly 7,000 more CSCs are to be set up in the state to meet the target of 18,745 centres. The service will also be made available in Lokvani kiosks, another e-governance project which works on public private partnership basis.
The CSC firms will monitor the urban centres. “The incentive for the internet cafes providing these services will be the Rs 10 fee. Additionally, the 26 e-governance schemes (such as issuing birth, death, caste certificates, etc.), which are currently being provided by CSCs, may also be extended to them (for which they can charge a fee),” Sinha said.
The National Informatics Centre (NIC) will design the software on which the service providers will work. To accelerate and bring more transparency in the system, the applicant will also be issued a tracking number for his application. “The delivery of EPICs should not take more than 10-15 days,” Sinha said. These rural and urban centres will also act as a medium to rectify errors in previously issued electoral cards.
The commission is hopeful of starting the first of such centres by January 15. “We plan on issuing the first batch of such cards on January 25, National Voters’ Day,” Sinha said.