This morning I visited my bank to collect a new cheque book in response to a mail telling that it was ready. It was a lean business hour and there was none on the counter. When I requested for the cheque book, the person on the counter looked at two different registers and told me that she had no cheque book for me. When I told her about the mail I had received, she asked me to approach the manager. The manager walked down and asked the lady in the counter to check again. And, lo! she found my name.
When she had asked for my name, I had told ‘PG Bhat’ whereas in her register it was written ‘Bhat PG.’ Out of about ten names on the page, she could not find my name with the initials transpositioned.
All the members of the staff in the bank are friendly and helpful people and I get very good service in the rare occasions of my visits. Still, a small difference in the way I mentioned my name and the way it was written in the register wasted about ten minutes.
The voter lists do not have a standard for writing names. In some records they start with the initials and in others end with initials. ‘C S’ could have come before or after ‘Suranjana,’ and could be written in many ways – CS, C.S, C.S., C S., C. S, and so on. At serial 324 of file AC1500208.pdf you see Di.Vi.Gurudatha. Is it not simple to have a standard?
A standard convention will help find duplicate entries more easily. E.g., ‘No. 28 (Binnypet).pdf’ for Graduate Constituency, published on CEO’s website, has the following two entries:
Serial 792: G Vedanarayanan, S/O K Ganesan
Serial 1040: Vedanarayanan.G, S/O Ganesan.K
Address, age, qualification, and occupation are same in the above two records.
These are samples. If we methodically analyse, we would find a large number of such errors.
Because of transpositioning of initials, if a friendly bank officer could not find a name out of ten, it would be a challenge to find a name out of lakhs of voters if we do not adhere to
simple standards. It would also be a little more difficult to merge duplicate entries.
Using software, we can change all the name entries in the database to adhere to a standard. This is not a difficult task. It is a simple risk-free task and its advantages are many. There are several other more involved tasks to clean up the voter list.
The ECs’ organisation goes through the five stages of grief when we discover quality issues in their work:
Denial, refusing to accept that there are quality issues. We have subcontracted the task to the best of software house after thorough vendor evaluation. So what if we do not
do any quality check ourselves?
Anger. If you show that I am wrong, I can quote rules and deny access of information. Shoot the messenger. All the blame is on that software vendor who has not done quality work. The data entry operators are no good. Out department is super-efficient, housed
with the most qualified and experience people.
Bargaining. We agree that there are some errors. Then, how do you expect us to complete a task just in a month which you say would take less than an hour considering
the technical content. Give us some time. We are government organisation and have our limitations.
Depression. Yes, the quality of data in the Graduate Voters List was bad. I am sad about it. My own name did not appear in right place with correct parameters.
Citizens are eagerly waiting for the 5th stage, that of acceptance: We cannot fight the truth anymore. We accept that we have to do some hard work and continuously improve the quality of voter records, implementing the data governance policies and procedures laid down meaningfully by our Election Commission decades ago.