In a technological snag affecting the electoral process, 19 out of 22 polling booths spread across seven districts in Bengal are grappling with the absence of internet connectivity, as revealed by a senior official from the chief electoral officer’s office who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The data indicates that only three polling booths across two districts are situated in voice shadow zones, while the majority face the challenge of inadequate internet infrastructure. Specifically, Alipurduar and Darjeeling account for two and one booths respectively, devoid of mobile phone connectivity. Additionally, South 24-Parganas, Purulia, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Jhargram, and Kalimpong each have multiple booths lacking internet facilities.
This deficiency in connectivity is particularly significant in the context of modern elections heavily reliant on technology. Voice shadow zones impede phone communication, while internet shadow zones pose obstacles to transmitting vital voting data, which booth officials are required to relay to the returning officer every two hours on polling day.
Addressing these concerns, the electoral authorities have engaged with service providers to improve internet quality in affected areas. Plans are underway to implement webcasting in all booths statewide, contingent on the success of this initiative. Alternatively, if internet enhancements prove ineffective, the installation of CCTV facilities in affected booths is being considered.
In response to these challenges, contingency measures are being devised wherein presiding officers and booth-level officers would relay messages to nearby alternative sources if necessary. Despite these efforts, the prevalence of technology-related obstacles underscores the need for robust infrastructure to uphold the integrity and efficiency of the electoral process.