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The Ultimate Guide to Voting Green in the Indian Elections

Indian Elections

Why in news?

  • Recently, the Election Commission of India (ECI) voiced its concern over the environmental risks associated with the use of non-biodegradable materials in Indian elections.
  • It has been urging parties and candidates to avoid the use of plastic/polythene for preparation of election material during an election campaign, since 1999.

Why is There a Need for a Shift Toward Green Elections?

  • Environmental Footprint of Traditional Elections: Traditional election processes have significant environmental consequences due to various factors:
  • Campaign Flights: The emissions from campaign flights during elections contribute significantly to the overall carbon footprint.
  • Deforestation and Other Issues : Reliance on paper-based materials for ballots, campaign literature, and administrative documents leads to deforestation and energy-intensive production processes.
  • Energy-Saving: Large-scale election rallies with loudspeakers, lighting, and other energy-consuming equipment contribute to energy consumption and emissions.
  • Waste Generation: PVC flex banners, hoardings, and disposable items used during campaigns add to waste generation and environmental impact.

What is the Concept of Green Elections?

  • Green Elections: Green elections are practices that aim to reduce the environmental impact of electoral processes. They involve measures such as using recycled materials, promoting electronic voting, and encouraging candidates to adopt sustainable campaign practices.
  • Green elections aim to minimize the environmental impact of electoral processes through:
  • Eco-Friendly Campaign Materials: Candidates and parties can adopt sustainable alternatives such as recycled paper, biodegradable banners, and reusable materials.
  • Reducing Energy Consumption: Opting for energy-efficient lighting, sound systems, and transportation during rallies can help reduce the carbon footprint.
  • Promoting Digital Campaigns: Leveraging digital platforms for campaigning (websites, social media, and email) reduces paper usage and energy consumption.

What are Successful Examples of Eco-friendly Electoral initiatives?

Example from India:

Kerala’s Green Campaign:
  • During the 2019 general election, the Kerala State Election Commission took a proactive step by urging political parties to avoid single-use plastic materials during their campaigns.
  • Subsequently, the Kerala High Court imposed a ban on flex and non-biodegradable materials in electioneering.
  • As an alternative, wall graffiti and paper posters emerged, promoting a more sustainable approach. Additionally, government bodies collaborated with the district administration in
  • Thiruvananthapuram to ensure a green election, emphasizing ecofriendly practices. Training sessions were also conducted in villages for election workers to raise awareness and promote environmentally conscious behavior.
Goa’s Artisan-Crafted Eco-Friendly Booths
  • In 2022, the Goa State Biodiversity Board took a significant step by introducing eco-friendly election booths for the Assembly elections.
  • These booths were constructed using biodegradable materials meticulously crafted by local traditional artisans from Sattari and Ponda.

What are the Challenges in Adoption of Green Elections?

Access to New Technologies and Training for Officials: Ensuring that all voters have fair access to new technologies is crucial. However, this requires substantial efforts in terms of training election officials and educating voters about the new systems.

Financial Constraints and Upfront Costs: Implementing eco-friendly materials and advanced technology often comes with significant upfront costs. Governments, especially those with limited budgets, may hesitate due to financial constraints.

Cultural Inertia and Voter Behavior: Traditionally, voting has been associated with physical presence at polling booths. Overcoming cultural inertia and changing voter behavior is essential for successful modernization:

Perceived Importance of Physical Voting: Many voters view physically going to the polls as a sacred civic duty. Convincing them that digital alternatives are equally valid can be challenging.

Trust in New Systems: Building trust in electronic voting systems is critical. Public skepticism about security, privacy, and potential manipulation must be addressed through transparency and robust safeguards.

Security Concerns and Compromises: Introducing new approaches, such as online voting or blockchain-based systems, raises concerns about vote security:

Cybersecurity Risks: Ensuring that voting systems are secure from cyber threats is paramount. Any compromise could undermine public trust and the integrity of elections.

Balancing Security and Accessibility: Striking the right balance between robust security measures and user-friendly interfaces is a challenge. Rigorous security protocols should not hinder ease of use.

Way Forward:

  • This green transition must involve all stakeholders such as political parties, Election Commissions, governments, voters, the media and civil society.
  • The success of integrating top-level directives with grassroots initiatives to foster a green transition is imperative.
  • Political parties must take the lead. The journey can begin by enacting legislation mandating eco-friendly electoral practices, with the ECI incorporating them in the Model Code of Conduct.
  • This involves campaigning through digital platforms or door-to-door campaigning (reducing energy-intensive public rallies) and encouraging the use of public transportation for election work.
  • Incentivising the replacement of plastic and paper-based materials with sustainable local alternatives for polling booths, such as natural fabrics, recycled paper and compostable plastics, will aid waste management and support local artisans.
  • The ECI can push for digital voting even though this necessitates the training and capacity building of officials.
  • To ensure equal participation of all voters in the digital electoral process, the government must educate and support voters and ensure equitable access to digital technology.

Read also: Draft National Tourism Policy

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