For concerned citizens seeking to report on election malpractices by political parties, the C-Vigil app from the Election Commission of India can be used in the five election-bound states, including Telangana. The beta version of the app, which is now being tested on a pilot basis, allows anyone in an election-bound state to report violations of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) from the date EC announces elections to the poll day.
Though the app was released in July, it has been operational in Telangana only on a trial basis at select districts and is expected to become fully operational after November 7.
Using the app, citizens can report political misconduct with proof, in the form of a video or photograph that are geo-tagged. Citizens can report on MCC violations either by electoral candidates or their supporters, such as money, gift/coupon, liquor distribution, for using poster or banners without the state EC permission. The app also accepts poll code violations such as display of firearms, intimidation of voters, using vehicle or convoy without permission, paid news, property defacement, transportation of voters on the polling day, campaigning within 200 meters of the polling booth, and campaigning during the ban period. Other violations include religious or communal speeches or messages, and those using time-bound speakers and posters without declaration.
TNM checked various features of the app and found it user-friendly, though, the appâ€™s language limitation â€” it only supports English and Hindi â€” will be a big hindrance to adoption. Users can log in anonymously or provide their name and address. Photos or videos of the violation need to be uploaded within five minutes of recording, and the app does not allow pre-recorded videos or photos to be taken from the user's phone gallery. It also has a section to show the status of complaints raised by concerned citizens.
The app currently works on only Android smartphones equipped with a camera, internet connection and GSP access. It works only on android operating system versions Jellybean and above. For those without an Android phone, a citizen would have to run to the Returning Officer in charge of conducting elections in the town or district and report the incident to the official. The EC acknowledges that by the time the officials respond, there would often be no proof for available for the EC to pursue the complaint. However, without access to the app, this system is still in place.
Since the appâ€™s launch in July, there has been a poor response, with only 100k+ downloads on Google play store. There have also been a lot of false of alarms. For example in Khammam, there have been as many as 46 complaints were received through the app but only two of those complaints were genuine.
The comments section of the beta version of the app is also not encouraging and shows mixed responses from users with some saying complaints have been rejected as â€śnot validâ€ť or â€śfalse.â€ť
So how does the EC process the complaint?
Once the user uploads and sends a picture or video, the information will be sent to the District Control room who will, in turn, alert the field units, such as the flying squads of the local police, static surveillance teams, and reserve teams who can reach the spot in a few minutes. The field unit will have a GIS-based mobile application called the "C-vigil dispatcher" that would allow them to track the location from where the complaint was received.
The actions taken by the field unit is relayed back to the returning officer for decision making and disposal. If the complaint is found to be genuine, then the information is sent to the National Grievances Portal of the ECI for further action. The entire process is expected to occur within a span of 100 minutes.
The app will be active only in states where elections have been announced and will become inactive once the elections are over. You can download the app here.