Google on Thursday marked the beginning of the general elections in India with a doodle that featured an inked finger, which when clicked led users to a page explaining the voting procedure.
This doodle’s reach was only for India where the world’s largest democratic exercise kicked off earlier in the day.
The interactive doodle page contained information to help the first-time voters in the country.
People with their names in the voter list (also known as Electoral Roll) could only cast their vote, it said. Voters could also find information on polling booths, contesting candidates, election dates and timings, identity cards and Electronic Voting Machines (EVM).
Voting for the 543 Lok Sabha seats would be held in seven phases: April 11, April 18, April 23, April 29, May 6, May 12 and May 19. Counting would take place on May 23.
Ninety-one Lok Sabha constituencies spread across 18 states and two Union Territories were voting in the first-phase on Thursday.
Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Uttarakhand, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Telangana will vote in a single phase.
Voting will also be held in parts of Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
The doodle explained the voting process at a polling booth and also gave several details:
*First polling official will check your name on the voter list and check your ID proof
*Second polling official will ink your finger, give you a slip and take your signature on a register (Form 17A)
*You will have to deposit the slip at the third polling official and show your inked finger and then proceed to the polling booth.
*Record your vote by pressing the ballot button opposite the symbol of the candidate of your choice on the EVM; You will hear a beep sound
*Check the slip that appears in the transparent window of the VVPAT machine. The slip with the Candidate serial No., Name and Symbol shall be visible for 7 seconds before it drops in the sealed VVPAT box
*You can press NOTA, None of the Above, if you don’t like any candidate; it’s the last button on the EVM. (IANS)
The success of the “Border Haats” with Bangladesh has prompted other northeastern states of India to go for similar arrangements with Myanmar. At the instance of the Mizoram government, the Centre is likely to set up four “Border Haats” (market) along the border with Myanmar to boost local trade and livelihood of the people living there.
“To carry out border trade with Myanmar, the location for the construction of ‘Border Haat’ has been identified in four places — Hnahlan, Zote, Vaphai (Saikhumphai) and Sangau (Pangkhua) in southeastern Mizoram,” Mizoram Commerce and Industries Minister R. Lalthangliana told IANS.
The Minister said, “The success of the “Border Haats” running along the Bangladesh border in Meghalaya and Tripura has prompted us to go for similar ‘haats’ with Mynmar in Mizoram.”
Mizoram Commerce and Industries Department Director J. Hmingthanmawia said that the state government has sent the detailed proposals in this regard to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) for its approval.
“Once we get the green signal from the MEA, we would seek funds from the Union Industries and Commerce Ministry,” Hmingthanmawia told IANS. He said that officials of the Mizoram government and Myanmar have recently conducted a joint survey and identified the locations to set up the “Border Haats”.
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga in his Independence Day speech had said that the proposed “Border Haats” would become important trade points between India and Myanmar.
“Land Custom Station (LCS) at Zokhawthar, the lone trade route for Mizoram with South East Asian countries, is being proposed for upgradation. Construction of Trade Facilitation Centre at Tlabung has already been completed.”
“The Indian government has also proposed construction of an Integrated Check Post (ICP) at four places at the border in Mizoram — Marpara, Tuipuibari, Silsuri and Nunsury. The construction of ICP at Kawrpuichhuah is also expected to commence shortly,” the Chief Minister added.
Mizoram has an unfenced international border of 404 km with Myanmar and 318 km with Bangladesh. The Border Security Force (BSF) has been guarding the Bangladesh border and Assam Rifles personnel are posted on the border with Myanmar.
Experts and various studies suggest that if the “Border Haats” are set up, smuggling of drugs and other commodities would be checked to a large extent. Security expert Manas Paul said that large-scale smuggling of drugs from Myanmar via Mizoram and other neighbouring states has increased in the last few years.
“What is really worrisome is the fact that these synthetic drugs have got a domestic market inside the state, especially among the younger generation. Cross border legal activities including setting up of “Border Haats” could curb the smuggling of drugs and other contraband,” Paul, who has authored books on security and terrorism in the northeast, told IANS.
The CUTS International, a Jaipur based international NGO, with support from the World Bank, had conducted a study in 2016 to understand and examine the effect of “Border Haats” on poverty alleviation and other multiplier effects such as informal trade.
CUTS International Executive Director Bipul Chatterjee said that trade will increase income, curb smuggling, and cross-border crimes will also go down.
“‘Border Haats’ have contributed to the border area development, roads have improved, trafficking of women has stopped, unemployment issues have been addressed,” said Chatterjee.
Currently four “Border Haats” are operational in Meghalaya and Tripura. The first “Border Haat” was started on July 23, 2011 at Kalaichar (India)-Kurigram (Bangladesh) in the West Garo Hills of Meghalaya. Three other “haats” followed in Meghalaya and Tripura.
The Union Industries and Commerce Ministry has been spending on an average Rs 3.5 crore to develop the infrastructure and necessary facilities for each “Border Haat” along the Bangladesh border. The Bangladesh government is not providing any funds for the purpose. (IANS)