App for ‘missing voters’ as India holds mammoth election

Syed Khalid Saifullah's Missing Voter app allows voters to check if their name is on the electorate list. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 10 April 2019

App for ‘missing voters’ as India holds mammoth election

  • An India-based NGO is helping up sign up as many as 17 million unregistered voters
  • The creator says there are a large number of names missing from the list

DUBAI: With India just a few days away from its general election, a non-governmental organization has created an app to help sign up as many as 17 million unregistered voters.

Speaking exclusively to the Arab News, Syed Khalid Saifullah said that his company, RayLabs Technologies, has undertaken the painstaking effort of listing the disenfranchised in the run-up to the elections, which get underway on April 11.

“Millions of eligible voters may not be able to vote, and this may impact the election result,” said Saifullah.

He said that as of March 29, his volunteers across the country had enrolled 41,769 voters. 

Through his company’s free Missing Voter app, a voter can find out whether their name is on the electorate list or not, and apply for a new voter ID online. If the unregistered voter doesn’t have a phone, a volunteer can help them register by going online.

He said it is an example of how technology can aid a community development project and contribute to the nation-building process, empowering those belonging to the marginalized sections of the society, as well as addressing a gap that exists in the system.

Using census numbers as a guide, Saifullah and his team concluded that a large number of names are missing from the list, especially in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra states. 

Even overseas Indians, especially blue-collar workers working in the Gulf, should to check to see if their names appear on the latest electoral list, Saifullah said.

With almost 900 million people registered to vote in India, it should go without saying that even if one person per household is missing out, that still translates into very large numbers.

Women's temple ban debate rages in India flashpoint vote

Updated 23 min 21 sec ago

Women's temple ban debate rages in India flashpoint vote

  • Indian Supreme Court ruled the ban on women from entering a Hindu temple as unconstitutional
  • Two of the three candidates for presidency support the ban

PATHANAMTHITTA, India: Voters in a flashpoint constituency in southern India went to the polls Tuesday after a campaign dominated by the fallout from the controversial decision to allow women to enter a Hindu temple.
The district of Pathanamthitta in the state of Kerala includes the Sabarimala Hindu temple, where two women finally defied a longstanding ban on women of menstruating age last year.
Traditionalists were outraged and many women remain divided over the move, which has overshadowed the campaign with candidates staging election parades on the issue.
Kanaka Durga and Bindu Ammini made history in December when police guided them into the hilltop shrine, after the Supreme Court ruled that the ban was unconstitutional.
Days of pitched battles erupted between traditionalists and activists. The anger has not died down and core issues such as unemployment, health and education have been pushed aside during the campaign.
The whole country is expected to follow the result when it is announced on May 23 after India’s marathon election.
Two of the three main candidates in the election are men who support the ban, while the third is a woman who has tried to dodge the topic.
Veena George, who is standing for the alliance of left wing parties that runs Kerala’s state government cited an election commission advisory to avoid using the temple to get votes.
“We need a revival of job opportunities, agriculture and infrastructure. Educated women need jobs,” she told AFP on the last day of campaigning before Tuesday’s vote.
India’s main opposition Congress party has fielded Anto Antony, who won the last two elections and has backed the traditionalists.
The Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has brandished its pro-Hindu credentials as it seeks to make an impact in a state where it has always struggled.
The BJP has fielded K. Surendran, who became the symbol of the massive temple protests across Kerala. He now faces more than 200 police cases related to violence during last year’s Sabarimala protests.
“The Communists have an issue with our prayers and religion but they can’t crush believers’ rights,” Modi told a rally in Kerala last week.
“We won’t tolerate any attack on a tradition that has lasted thousands of years,” Modi added to wild cheers.
Many women have backed the traditionalist cause.
“Local men and women agree. There is only one issue in this election — our faith. And the court shouldn’t have intervened,” Lakshmi, who works at a local hospital, and only uses one name, told AFP.
“I feel hurt as a Hindu when I see things going against our culture and tradition,” added Bindhu, a housewife.
“The temple has always been a place where women could not go. It is not acceptable to see people coming and fighting to enter now,” she added.
Tens of thousands of people, including many women, took part in street marches and protests in support of the ban.
However, uncertainty remains over how many women will vote for their right to enter Sabarimala.
“Women should be free to choose whether to enter or not. To me, women’s safety, here and all over India, is the only issue that is important,” said Ansa S., a medical student.