THE cVIGIL app, launched by the Election Commission of India (ECI) to fast-track the complaint reception and redressal system, seems to have received a thumbs up from Pune residents, with more than 800 complaints on poll code violation registered from across the four constituencies in the district since the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) came into force on March 10 ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
According to the election office, a total of 878 complaints were registered till April 13 evening, all of which have been disposed. “The cVIGIL app is meant for vigilant citizens. It lays stress on a responsible role to be played by citizens at the time of elections to ensure smooth, free and fair conduct of polls,” District Collector Naval Kishore Ram said on Sunday. The district collector is also the returning officer for Pune district.
The collector said the cVIGIL app was “an important tool in the hands of the people,” and was launched on the day the model code came into effect. “…It (the app) is being extensively used by citizens in Pune and we are also taking prompt action in the matter,” he claimed.
According to the election office, in past 40 days, Pune Lok Sabha constituency has registered the highest number of code violations at 314, followed by Baramati (242), Maval (205) and Shirur (117).
The election office, however, said most of poll code violation complaints received so far have been “minor” in nature. “There are no serious cases of violations, like distribution of money, serving of liquor or provocative speeches, reported on the cVIGIL app so far. Until now the code violation complaints have been restricted to minor cases, like boards and banners (put up by) political parties that have not been covered,” Resident Deputy Collector Jayshree Kataria said.
All these cases, Kataria said, have been disposed of. “For instance, boards or banners put up on roadside or on the back of autorickshaws, have either been covered or told to be removed,” she said.
Kataria, however, said now that the candidates have been finalised and the last date of withdrawal of nomination was over, there could be incidents of serious violations. “We are expecting more complaints,” she said.
A separate cell has been set up by the election office to monitor the complaints received on the app. Suresh Jadhav, the nodal officer for the cVIGIL app, said: “After a complaint is received from a citizen, it is forwarded to a flying squad in five minutes. The squad either accepts or rejects it — a complaint can be rejected if the flying squad thinks it cannot reach the spot on time or if they are busy with other investigations. If the flying squad does not accept the complaint, it is re-allotted to another squad.”
Jadhav said the flying squad is expected to reach a spot in 15 minutes and take action within 30 minutes. “The flying squad then submits its action taken report to assistant return officer (ARO). The ARO submits a reply to the complainant or if he thinks, it needs further investigation, he initiates another investigation,” he said.
According to Jadhav, complaints received from citizens are of two types. “One is where the complainant provides his name and mobile number, and the other is where the person does not want to reveal his identity. In the first case, the complainant gets the reply when his complaint has been disposed of. In the second case, the complainantt does not get the reply even when his complaint is acted upon.”
The election office said of the total 878 complaints, 150 were “sample complaints” — ones where the complainant was trying to verify if the complaint was taken up or not. “…The rest are related to boards, banner, posters (put up by political parties) or inclusion of newspaper advertisements in election expenditure of candidates,” Kataria said. He added that since the app is about “vigilant citizens”, they do not get complaints from political parties.
“On this app, only vigilant citizens can register complaints about poll code violations, and upload photos and videos pertaining to the same,” he said.
Jadhav said it is expected that citizens make location-specific complaints. “Location-specific complaints ensure quick redressal, as our flying squad can rush within a short span of time,” he said, adding that the application has been made GPS-compatible.
Activist-turned-politician, Maruti Bhapkar, who had contested in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, said the election office, as well as the citizens, will have to remain extra vigilant in last few days of the polls when candidates go full hog in distributing money.
“Candidates of major political parties distribute money among corporators, various organisations, Ganesh mandals and even some communities who have a strong presence. Hotels, lodges and bars should be kept under watch too. We hope complaints of this nature are received on cVIGIL app and the election office takes immediate action on them,” he said.
Apart from the mobile application, the district collector said they were also manually monitoring the code violations strictly. “We have seized Rs 3 crore cash, meant for distribution among voters, seized over 80,000 litres liquor and even confiscated illegal arms,” Ram said.
“We are strictly monitoring the situation to ensure free and fair polls. We will not allow any kind of violation of the model code of conduct. We expect that vigilant citizens will keep us updated about any code violation in their area,” the Collector added.