Garbage In – More Stinking Garbage Out: Apathy of Voter List

Karnataka state government made a crusade to rename the state capital from Bangalore to Bengaluru – or is it Bengalooru?

Prof. of G Venkatasubbaiah, a 99-year-old lexicographer, said, “I don’t endorse the name-changing madness since patriotism is in the heart, and not in a name. We need to put a full stop to this kind of phoney nationalism and tub-thumping chauvinism, and look to promoting Kannada in more meaningful ways.’’

The central government has not yet approved the change of name though in several documents and talks people already use the new name. When will some paid activists hold the innocent citizens hostage and burn public properties to have their steaming Kannada name, reminiscent of boiled beans?

I am fine with these 3 or 4 variations. How about 201 variations? Wouldn’t that be fun? The graduate constituency voter list for Bangalore has 201 variations in the name of the city. When a voter says that he lives in Bangalore and we want to search with that key word, what are the chances that we type the correct one out of the 201?

It does not stop there. There are another 165 forms in which the city name is entered by joining it with the next word. E.g., Bengalore78, BngaloreUrban, BangaloreBrindavan, Bangalore5600923, etc. For a person searching for ‘Bangalore’ these variations may not be much of a hindrance. Dumb computers are not as intelligent. They need to be told what to look for and to tell them that we have to know in advance the possible variations.

Like pauses and brief silences are important when we talk, spaces and other word boundaries are important when we write. Else, we contribute to garbage.

Citizens in the graduate voter list are highly qualified. Many have multiple degrees. Each combination of qualifications becomes a unique entry when we look at the total unique values in qualifications field of voter database. Considering all kinds of degrees offered by recognised institutes, I would guess the unique values to be within 100. A query on the qualifications entered in the voter list gives 14, 291 unique entries. I am off the mark by a few hundred due to data corruption. Still 14,000 different combinations of qualifications! ‘B.Sc.’ has five characters. Each of the three alphabets can be lower or upper case independent of the other. In addition, we can ignore one or both the periods, add spaces as we like, write BSE or B Essee because we heard it so…

If our people have so diverse set of qualifications, the picture is even more colourful with the list of jobs. We can count 15,576 different professions in the voters list. Rounding it off to 15,000 also is a very impressive list of professions! This is despite 23,000 people not indicating any profession.

Callousness and magnitude of errors in the voter list is appalling. With this mess, if we want to filter down to individuals based on address, qualification or profession, we are more likely to exclude them and send back from the polling station.

In proper names, we cannot decisively tell what is right and what is not. If one person calls herself Bhagirathi another likes to spell her name Baghirathy. However, there are official names for cities, localities, roads, and streets. Houses have door numbers. Many addresses in the voter list have just house number or street number. If we record incorrect or incomplete addresses, we cannot reach there – defeating the purpose of an address.

There are only a set of possible degrees and a set of jobs. If there are minor variations, it is only proper to normalise them. Voter list is a responsible document and should be prepared with the respect it deserves, and maintained regularly.

The enumerators would have gathered and entered incomplete and erroneous data. We can certainly correct most of these errors while entering the data to the system. A well designed data entry system can ensure better quality and more complete data.

Even now, it is not a herculean task to improve the voter list. Using simple technology, we can normalise and merge diverse names. I can work on it with pleasure. Will the election commission accept the results and improve the records? When I approached them a few times earlier with such proposals, I was rejected.

Problems with address, qualification and profession are not as harmful to the system as some others. We shall discuss about them in another blog as I have only sample observations on them. I need to analyse deeper and offer concrete suggestions to correct the errors.

Now, a little reflection on grammar:

Closed-system and open-class

A language has function words and content words.

Function words provide the framework for sentence structure, gluing the content words together making the sentences meaningful. They are conjunctions (and, or …) articles (a, an, the) demonstrative (this, that) prepositions (to, from, at, with …) pronouns (he, she, they …) modal verbs (should, could …) and auxiliary verbs (have, do, will …)

Closed-class words have restricted meanings and are less confusing.

Open class words are also called Content Words or Lexical Words. They are nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. These words have independent meaning even outside a sentence whereas a closed class word does not carry a meaning outside the sentence.

Function words form closed class. Rarely new words are added closed classes. A new word may be added in a century. While scores of new nouns and verbs are added to dictionary every year, we live happily for our lifetime with the three articles.

Though a voter list has only nouns, they are not fully open. We cannot invade and modify them as we likes. Many proper names can be considered semi-closed. Components of addresses, qualifications, and profession are official terms. They should not be changed by whims or by negligence. They are semi-closed though not functional words.

Let us keep our minds open and have closure on as many terms as possible in the voter list. That will be a tiny step in cleansing the system, but will open up new possibilities.


About pgbhat

A retired Naval Officer and an educationist. Has experience with software industry. A guest faculty at different institutes and a corporate trainer with software development companies.
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2 Responses to Garbage In – More Stinking Garbage Out: Apathy of Voter List

  1. Technical Grammar! True Efforts! Appreciate!


  2. kartik says:

    I was originally in favor of the switch to Bengaluru (or Kolkota, Mumbai, etc). But I completely agree that the money & energy that needs to be spent dealing with the name change is such a mammoth waste. Prof Venkatasubbiah is so right on this.


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