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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Indian EC: Only poor quality indelible ink is removable

India's Election Commission has explained that the use of poor quality indelible ink is the reason such an ink used on voters is quite easily "removable".

In an email reply to questions from Malaysiakini, Indian EC secretary KN Bhar said this had occurred in India, and has since been rectified through "strict orders" to manufacturer Mysore Paints and Varnishes Ltd (MPVL), which is owned by the Karnataka state government.

"The main cause of failure (of the ink) was poor quality due to some negligence in the preparation process. The MPVL was directed to strictly maintain the quality of ink," Bhar said.

The Indian EC is widely known for its independence.

pulau ketam village head election 310711 indelible ink"No complaints were subsequently received. The use of indelible ink has been quite effective in checking multiple voting."

In 2009, a candidate in the parliamentary election for the city of Pune was reported by theTimes of India to have lodged a complaint that the indelible ink used could be rubbed off.

Bhar said that India, the world's largest democracy, has used indelible ink since 1951 and that MPVL has been supplying the ink since 1959.

Earlier this month, local English daily The Star reported that an unnamed Europe-based company had demonstrated to the daily that indelible ink used on voters can be removed with off-the-shelf stain removers.

The newspaper also cited the case of the 2004 Afghan presidential election, where at least two candidates complained that the indelible ink used was removable.

The Times Online then reported that several voters were spotted trying to remove the ink with bleach and other solvents, with varying success.

Polling officers used wrong ink

Commenting on this, Bhar said polling officers in Afghanistan had mistakenly used normal black ink, meant to mark ballot papers, to apply on the voters, instead of the indelible ink.

This was communicated to the Indian EC as it had assisted Afghanistan in the election.

"The (Indian EC) received first hand report from an officer of the commission who was associated with that election in Afghanistan.

"(The report noted that) at some polling stations, the polling personnel had by mistake applied ordinary black ink, meant for marking ballot papers by voters, on the fingers of voters instead of marking their fingers with indelible ink."

pulau ketam village head election 310711 indelible ink 02Bhar said the ink supplied to the Afghan EC by the Indian government was produced by MVPL and is the same used in Indian elections.

The Star report also quoted a spokesperson of the unnamed Europe-based company as saying that indelible ink poses health risks due its silver nitrate content.

However, election watchdog Asian Network for Free Elections toldMalaysiakini that the silver nitrate content for indelible ink is capped at four percent, as recommendedby the World Health Organisation.

Agreeing with this, Bhar said that ink has "no hazardous element harmful for human health" and does not cause irritation.

"So, biologically, it is very safe," he added.

The use of indelible ink is one of the eight demands of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections or Bersih 2.0.

The EC in Malaysia had said recently that it would decide if indelible ink or a biometric system, or both, would be used in the 13th general election.

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