Teaching democracy to the world, election style…

By bappaditya paul

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has entrusted the chief electoral officer (CEO) of West Bengal, Mr Sunil Kumar Gupta, along with his counterparts from Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, with designing courses on election management for training poll officials from other countries.

Mr Gupta’s inclusion in the high-level team comes in recognition of the success of a peaceful Assembly election held in West Bengal last year.
The three-member team of Mr Gupta, the CEO of Gujarat Ms Anita Karwal and the CEO of Tamil Nadu Mr Praveen Kumar has been asked to design two courses of five and 15 days’ duration.

These will be taught at the India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management (IIIDEM) founded by the ECI in New Delhi mid-last year. The courses are likely to commence from March-April.  According to Mr Gupta, they are designing the courses for imparting training to poll officials from  developing and underdeveloped countries across the globe.

“In formulating the courses, we are keeping in mind both the election management practices followed in India and in other developed democracies in the world. The aim is to design a curriculum that can facilitate the trainees from various countries a holistic knowledge on ways to hold a free and fair election.”

To keep the team members abreast of the global standards in election management, the ECI has also sent two of them ~ Mr Gupta and Ms Karwal ~ to an international training session being held in Phuentsholing, Bhutan from 30 January to 11 February.  The session is jointly organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Australian Electoral Commission. Tagged as Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (Bridge), the session is being attended by 25 representatives from countries across the world.

On returning from the Phuentsholing session, the two CEOs will in turn train a pool of selected election officials drawn from various states. Ultimately, it will be these officials who would conduct the courses for international trainees at the IIIDEM.

Meanwhile, the government of Delhi has allotted a five-acre plot at Dwarka to the Election Commission of India (ECI) for setting up a permanent campus for its India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management (IIIDEM). According to ECI sources, the campus will be ready in two years from now. At present, the IIIDEM is housed at Nirvachan Sadan ~ the ECI headquarters in New Delhi.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This piece first appeared in The Statesman on 31 Januray 2012.)

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