The Election Commission today flagged the “very poor” response of the Ministry of External Affairs in enlisting its employees serving abroad as service voters even as it asked various organisations to walk an extra mile in enrolling their personnel in the electoral rolls. Chief Election Commissioner A K Joti told the representative of the MEA at a seminar on enrolling service voters that “yours is an easier job, but the response is very poor, because hardly anybody is able to vote”. Earlier, addressing the gathering, the CEC said his interaction with embassy officials in Romania and the meetings his officials had with mission staff in Washington DC and New York had revealed that not many MEA employees posted abroad have been able to cast their vote in elections here.
Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra, representatives from the home and the external affairs ministries, besides officers from the armed forces and central armed police forces were present. Secretary (East) in the MEA Preeti Saran said in her career as Indian Foreign Service office spanning 35 years, she has been able to vote only once. She said a record number of officers in 183 Indian missions abroad have been appointed to enrol Indian employees as service voters. According to Deputy EC Sandeep Saxena, out of 29 lakh people eligible to be enlisted as service voters, 14.5 lakh have been enrolled this year.
To wipe out the names of retired and deceased personnel from the list of service voters, the EC has initiated an exercise to register such voters afresh in the electoral rolls of all Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies. Joti said at a time when the country is following the dream of digital India, enrolling 30 lakh people as service voters should not be a difficult task.
He said that with the use of latest information, communication and technology (ICT) tools, the Commission was able to remove one crore “errors” from electoral rolls, clean up 35 lakh “duplicate” entries and issue voter I-cards to 99 per cent of the total Indian electorate. He said the inclusion of service voters in the electoral rolls becomes all the more important as the number of voters has risen from 83 crore in 2014 to 86.86 crore now.