An EPIC Story

Prof. HN Mahabala’s grandson introduces himself, “I am not Tejas,” lest you confuse him for his identical twin. Each person and every entity has unique identity. In many occassions, we mask identity to reduce complexities. When we say, “a student in my class,” we have a student in mind, but her identity is not relevant in the discussions. If we say, “a citizen of India wants to take part in elections,” we do not point at any particular citizen. Therefore, there is no specific identity.

In personal interactions, we can establish identity of the other person by eye contact, pointing a
finger, or by many other means.
In organised systems, we need unique identifiers. Bank account, driving licence, credit card, passport, employee, prisoner, are all identified by unique identities, mostly numbers. We are also used with PNR, seat number, room number, street number, etc. We are talking about identity, where numbers help. UIDAI project will spend Rs. 18,000 crores to assign unique identity to every person who applies for – Indian or otherwise.

However, the Electoral Roll has created great identity crisis to the voters of Karnataka.

Chapter IX of “Hand Book for Electoral Registration Officers,” published by Election Commission of India
in 2008, explains 
Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC). It states,

“Every EPIC is issued under a unique EPIC Number .

EPIC Number is an alphanumeric string with 3 alphabetical codes followed by a seven-digit number. While the first 3 alphabetical Codes, called the Functional Unique Serial Number (FUSN) code is unique for every Assembly Constituency and is provided by the Election Commission, the numeric code that follows the FUSN code is a six digit running serial number followed by one digit checksum making a total of seven digits. 

An EPIC, once issued, is valid across the country and the elector need not be issued another EPIC even if, he shifts from the Constituency where EPIC was originally issued. The purpose of EPIC is to identify the elector with his name in the Electoral Roll. EPIC once issued no matter in which Assembly Constituency it was issued, can meet this purpose.

EPIC Number is designed to act as the permanent unique identity for every elector and thus it is very crucial that, once created, this information is not lost.”

Good system. Let us see the state with the electoral rolls of Bangalore District, clause by clause:

  1. 12,72,877 voters do not have EPIC numbers, which is 20.18%.
  2. EPIC numbers ar repeated in 30,154 records, affecting 60,308 voters.  Duplicates are either in the same
    file with different serial number or in a different file – meaning a different part/booth.
  3. FUSN number, provided by the EC, is unique for every assembly constituency. Though for the 27 constituencies under study, we should thus have 27 unique combinations of Constituency + FUSN,  we have
    a set of 1505 such combinations.
  4. Even without considering the combinations, we find 720 three character FUSN code in 27 constituencies. If we see the remaining 109 constituencies of Karnataka, we may find many more FUSN codes. Were these codes provided by EC or created by CEO?
  5. In all, 22.65% of the records do not have unique identification. This speaks very poorly of the data quality and its trustworthiness.
  6. 69,850 EPIC numbers do not adhere to the prescribed format. They either do not have FUSN, have ony two character FUSN, or do not have checksum digit. Some are negative numbers, which the search feature rejects as invalid number while it is happy with other incorrect formats.  

Samples for you to try at See some sample results by querying at CEO website :

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is not a mix-up, but has been messed up. 

Total voter recortds checked 63,08,369 ones available in English
Blank EPIC number fields 12,72,877 some of them are with single characters like
‘-‘
Incorrect format 69,850 not adhering to
the standard format laid down by EC.
Same EPIC number in two records 30,154
Affected records by above 60,308
Total records without or with invalid EPIC
no. 
14,33,189 which is 22.65%

 

 We cannot think of any database where we cannot uniquely identify a record. The most basic task while designing a schema is to know the unique fields and the primary key. We find this lesson even in dummies series books.

Effects:

  1. Random checks show that some voters without EPIC number are duplicated records. E.g., see the records of Jahnavi Nilekani, covered in previous blog posts. She has EPIC number in one record and none in the remaining three duplicate records. 
  2. If the same EPIC number is given to different people, the number loses validity. It is more deceitful than not providing a number.  
  3. Of the duplicate epic numbers, in 568 cases the same voter seem to have duplicate records. There would be more.

Messing up with EPIC number could be a big reason for corrupted electoral roll, furthering corrupt practices in election processes.

FAQ at CEO
site has some interesting information:

Q29. Can one be
enrolled at more than one place?

Ans.  No.
A person cannot cannot be enrolled as a voter in more than one place in the same
 constituency or in more than one constituency.

The question I frequently ask is “Can a person repeatedly enroll at the same place?” The answer probably is “Yes” in deed if not in words.

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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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One Response to An EPIC Story

  1. Pingback: Sanctity of Voter ID in Karnataka | PG's Pensieve

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