V. Preparation and Issue of Electors’ Photo Identity Cards (EPICs)
Rule 28 of the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960 provides that with a view to preventing impersonation of electors and facilitating their identification at the time of poll, Electors Photo Identity Cards (EPICs) may be prepared and issued to all electors.
The scheme of preparation and issue of EPICs was initiated by the Election Commission in 1993. In the second half of 1997 while taking up the Summary Revision of the Electoral Rolls with 01.01.1998 as the qualifying date, the Commission decided to computerize the Electoral Rolls. Accordingly, a set of comprehensive guidelines covering different parameters and implementation strategy was issued.
In Tamil Nadu the EPIC coverage was taken up in phases starting from March 1996 with the second phase being taken up from July 2000 and the third phase from March 2002. The first phase was entrusted to Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu Limited (ELCOT), the second phase to three agencies, viz. M/s. Star Data, M/s. Mega Lazers and M/s. KELTRON selected on tender basis and the third phase was done by the State Level Agency, i.e. M/s. CMC Limited.
In view of the General Elections to Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, 2006, an intensive campaign for coverage of electors with EPICs was taken up in the fourth phase during February-April 2006. Even though the total number of EPICs issued in all earlier phases came to more than 70% of the electorate, due to shifting and death of electors and inability to capture and enter EPIC numbers particularly in ACs covered by Intensive Revision (39 Assembly Constituencies) conducted in 2005, the percentage of EPIC numbers reflected in the Electoral Rolls database came down to 54%. The general public on their part were not inclined to show the EPIC in their possession presumably to get a new card.
Tamil Nadu was divided into 14 regions. While the tenders were called for and finalized centrally, the implementation and payment to Agencies were entrusted to District Election Officers. The work was done by 10 Vendors covering the 14 Regions in which the State was divided. The coverage was done in Designated Photographic Locations (DPLs) by on-line mode.
The coverage was taken up in during the different phases conducted till April 2006 as follows:
By end of April 2006 when the EPIC coverage had to be halted due to elections, the coverage of electors with EPIC had reached nearly 75%. Some other electors might also be possessing EPICs, but the EPIC number was not there in the database.
Photo Electoral Rolls
The exercise of preparation of photo electoral rolls in all the 234 Assembly Constituencies was initiated in July 2006 soon after the elections to Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, 2006 so as to enable publication of photo-rolls so prepared as the draft rolls for the summary revision process with 1st of January 2007 as the qualifying date. In view of the bye-election to Madurai Central Assembly Constituency, the preparation of photo electoral rolls was taken up in that Constituency on a fast track mode and the final photo rolls were published on 5th September, 2006.
As the tenders for the 4th phase of (online) EPICs production (taken up during November 2005 - April 2006) included the photo electoral rolls component as the second phase, the same ten (10) vendors took up the photo rolls component also for the 14 regions into which the State was divided for this purpose (totally 30 districts then).
Methodology for preparation of photo rolls
a. Retrieval of images
The images captured during the EPIC programme in the four phases were available in JPEG file format in CDs with the DEOs. During every phase of the EPIC programme, laminated miniature sheets were generated by the vendors. These miniature sheets were available in Taluk/ DEOs offices.
The images were retrieved from the CDs. Where images were not available in CDs, the images were scanned from the miniature sheets if they were available in the miniatures. Separate software was designed to give a list of electors with EPIC numbers, but whose images were missing. Using the list, and by comparing with the miniature sheet index, the vendors scanned the missing images. However, this was not very useful in many places as the quality of scanned image was found to be poor.
b. Updating electoral rolls database
The updation of electoral rolls database with EPIC numbers was done before taking up the preparation of photo-rolls.
c. Photo Rolls Check Lists
Photo electoral rolls were printed initially (Check List I) by linking available images in CDs/ scanned images from the existing miniature sheets with the electoral rolls data base. During house-to-house verification, passport size colour photographs were obtained from electors and scanned. Based on the initial verification with Check List-I and data entry, Check List-II was printed. Additional images/ missing images were captured mainly by (i) collecting and scanning passport size photographs, (ii) digital image capture in house to house visit by staff accompanying the digital photographer of the vendor along with Check List –II verification and / or (iii) digital image capture at DPLs (in a few places).
During off-election period, there was not much of enthusiasm among the electors for coming to DPLs and, therefore, the DEOs generally did not adopt method (iii) above.
Based on the images captured, Check List-III was printed for correction cases and mop-up round of image capture done. Finally, the rolls were published as draft photo electoral rolls for the process of summary revision of electoral rolls 2007 for all the ACs in May/ June, 2007.
Current Status (end of January, 2009)
The images as a proportion of the live electors by end of January, 2009 was 99.26% in the electoral rolls realigned after delimitation of Constituencies. The coverage of electors with images was more than 98% in all the Districts except in Chennai (94.98%) and Kancheepuram (97.29%).
EPIC pendency and EPIC Centres
The % of electors for whom images had to be captured or EPICs to be printed/ distributed (after capture of images) by end of January 2009 was 4.29% (i.e., 17.70 lakh electors).
EPIC centres have been set up, one for each Assembly Constituency, with EPIC operators for capture of images, printing of EPICs, etc. All these centres have equipments such as Computer, Printer, Scanner, Digital Camera etc. Operators have also been deployed by the State Level Agency viz., M/s. CMC Ltd. These centres will take up inter-alia printing of EPICs for all cases of inclusion of new electors in the electoral rolls, residual electors and handle cases of corrections in EPICs and issue of duplicate/replacement EPICs. Also, during off-revision period, the centres will handle data-entry for Forms received for inclusion, deletion, modification & transposition in the electoral rolls.
M/s. ELCOT, a State Government undertaking, has provided connectivity from the Point of Presence (PoP) of TNSWAN (Tamil Nadu State Wide Area Network) in the offices where EPIC centre is located in each Assembly Constituency except in a few places where Taluk has been formed recently or a new building is under construction or where connectivity could not be provided in the Taluk Office building (and is being provided from a nearby office).
The capture of images (for EPIC) till mid-2006 was through the campaign mode by setting up of Designated Photography Centres (DPLs) to operate during the days earmarked for coverage in the area served by the DPL. After the elections to the TN Legislative Assembly in 2006, the DPLs, wherever set up, did not attract people and, therefore, the mode adopted was either to obtain passport size photo and scan it or to capture the image using a digital camera by taking it from house-to-house.
With the decision to take up the preparation of photo-rolls (i.e., incorporation of images in the e. roll itself), there was a metamorphosis in that EPIC could be generated and printed at any time from the image captured (which was first used to incorporate it in the e. roll to produce the photo e. roll.). The simpler method was to obtain, as far as possible, (passport size) photos for all new entrants to the e. rolls along with the Form filed for inclusion for which purpose a box was provided at the top of the Form to enable the applicant to affix his photo. The Election Commission prescribed Forms 001A and 001B on the basis of which EPIC could be generated with the details in these Forms and photo furnished by the applicants with them. Form 001A has to be filed for inclusion or transposion (with Form 6/8A) and Form 001B is a pre-generated Form for all residual electors (i.e., those who are registered in the e. roll but whose image is not available).
Also with a fairly high capture of images for the electors on the e. rolls, it was not necessary to take up special campaigns through vendors and instead handle the new cases and the residual electors as indicated above or using the EPIC Operators. The EPIC Centres would also handle cases of duplicate/ replacement EPICs.