With an alarming number of frauds seeping into the Indian elections, the Election Commission initiated the system of voter ID also called the Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC). It is an identification proof which is issued to all the citizens who are eligible to cast a vote. With this ID you can cast a vote in the municipal, state and national elections. Apart from being your ticket to cast a vote, this document is accepted in many offices and institution as a valid form of identification and that’s where all the problems start.
Booth level officers, agents and regular citizens, in exchange for money, are ready to issue fake voting IDs. Officers in Delhi and UP have been involved in selling fake voter IDs for as little as Rs. 1000-Rs. 1500. Easy access to the citizen’s database, prevalent loopholes in the system, lack of regulations, availability of holograms and stamps – are some reasons why there has been a rise in cases of fake documents.
The major culprits are those within the system and offices. Employees and workers who served in the government offices easily get access to the data of citizens from the software used to make the IDs. Using this software, the offenders could scan a voter id, replace the details and issue the card using the hologram stolen. Incidents like these raise serious questions as to how the employees and workers within the government offices steal sensitive data of the citizens, stamps and signatures of the officers. For example, in Hyderabad, 3 people including an attendee at Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation were arrested for stealing holograms and signature stamps of electoral officers. With which they issued at least 30 fake voter IDs. Such fake documents issued could be used by fraudsters to secure vital documents like passports.
With the help of such agents, offenders get their hands on multiple voter IDs with the same face and different names. These fake ids are their ticket to get multiple PAN cards, using which they can open bank accounts. As per an article published in The Times of India, Hyderabad is soon becoming a hub for issuing multiple fake ids and documents. In fact, most of the immigrants prefer going to that city to get access to fake documents. For instance, a resident of Telangana fraudulently acquired multiple voter ids and PAN cards which he used to open 40 saving accounts in banks like SBI, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Union Bank of India, Andhra Bank etc. He then rented all these accounts to fraudsters to channelize tainted money. In return, he received 20,000 monthly salaries from each fraudster plus 15% commission on successful frauds. The fraudsters often use these banks accounts for corrupt purposes like VISA frauds, lottery frauds, conning people, hacking etc.
In another case, the accused (Jagan Mohan Reddy), a 10th passout, was arrested for using fake voter ID and PAN card with which he acquired 167 credit cards from various banks and money to the tune of Rs. 63 lakh.
Due to the above-mentioned issues, getting a voter ID has become like purchasing a product. As a result, not only Indians but those who are declared as foreigners under the Foreign Tribunal, too are voting with the easy and fraudulent access of a fake voting ID. As per an investigation by India Today, Bangladeshi immigrants were converted into legitimate Indian citizens using fraudulent documents, and as a result, their names were found in the voter’s list. The investigation goes on to unveil the fact that in just a small town of Assam there are up to 12,000 immigrants who are living as Indian citizens with voter ID. As per the Foreign Tribunal, these are dubious voters and do not have the right to vote.
As mentioned, having a voter ID means you are eligible to cast a vote and express your say in which political party or candidate should come to power. Over the years there have been a plethora of fake voting IDs which could mean one person having multiple voter IDs or fake IDs being issued to people not who are even eligible to vote. A result of which out of a population of 130 crores, the electoral rolls have at least 8.5 crore names listed which are fake and duplicate.
The ease with which these voter ids are issued gives rise to a number of problems like – underage voting, impersonification of voters on the election day, duplicate voting and bogus voting by using the voter IDs of the deceased. There have been many incidents in which a citizen moves from one location to the other and on shifting to a new place, gets a new voter card issued without deleting his name from the former place. So, in this situation, he has 2 voter cards with 2 different addresses printed on it. As a result, if he wants he can cast 2 votes from 2 different constituencies.
In 2018, in the Madhya Pradesh’s Kolaras assembly constituency, the voter list included 5000 names of voters who were deceased. The names which were to be deleted were still present due to negligence on the part of the booth officers. So, by fraudulent means, anyone could cast a vote on behalf of the dead voters as their name are still a part of the voter list.
In the midst of all these frauds, scams and crimes the Election Commission is constantly trying to come up with ways to tackle the fake voting issue. The irony, however, is that the voter ID system was initiated to improve accuracy and prevent electoral frauds, but that itself has added fuel to the menace. From issuing stricter instructions to check additional photo ID cards at polls to put a thick indelible ink – they have tried it all. And now the latest development is to mandatory linking of Aadhaar card with the voter’s ID.
While fake voter IDs have been a big menace in the Indian elections, note for vote has been another such issue. But, thanks to the Election Commission’s formed Flying Squads, tackling this issue by patrolling on the streets during the elections and catching the culprits red-handed.