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No Easy Answers Online
The new Websites Created for Punjab Elections would not alter outcomes too much, considering their limited reach and impact

In the upcoming Punjab Assembly Election 2012, all candidates from various political parties will have their own personalised websites and individual call centres; which have been designed by a Delhi-based NGO named Srishti. Such convergence would bring all candidates under one roof to facilitate a comparison of performances, ideologies and various development activities carried out by these candidates. This will eventually allow all candidates to promote themselves to the educated masses of Punjab – especially to Punjabi NRIs, as they have also been given voting rights.

However, it must be considered that around 66% of the population of Punjab lives in rural areas and has very limited access to the Internet (less than 5% Indians have ever used the Internet; World Bank). As per Census 2011, the literacy rate of Punjab is 76.7% with the difference between urban and rural areas being close to 15%. Above all, the number of people exercising their voting rights is much higher in rural areas than their urban counterparts. So, although the system shows promise, it will have limited reach to the target audience. Individual call centres would be used so that individuals can leave suggestions and give feedback; but even then the impact of that on rural voters is quite questionable with their limited means.

On paper, the entire concept may seem democratic but the utility won’t reach the real audience. Policy makers should rather focus on a better multilingual information sharing platform in order to make the scheme more economical and socially beneficial. In fact, as far as India is concerned, nothing’s better than stepping into the centre of action and engaging with voters face to face.

By:- Mrinmoy Dey

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