Friday, May 29, 2009

Cyclone Aila relief work

Cyclone Aila struck the coasts of Bangladesh and West Bengal, India killing more than 200 people and destroying 180,000 homes. Over 3 million people have been displaced as per the estimates.

The govt help is as always not adequate. Association for India's Development (AID) is partnering with local NGO partners to provide food, water and shelter. AID has already disbursed $21,000 to one of the partner NGO Baikanthapur Tarun Sangha (BTS) for this work.

If you would like to help the relief work please donate to AID All India Relief Fund.

Click here if you would like to follow the regular updates (from people working right in the middle of it and not from seasoned journalists)

If you would like to go and help in the relief work drop a hint in the comments section.

Cyclone Aila in press : BBC | The Daily Star | CNN | ToI | The Hindu

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Urban Legend - Act 49-O

While the parliamentary election were on in India, I received several emails to exercise my right of not giving my vote to anyone. The general email reads as follows:

"Did you know that there is a system in our constitution, as per the 1969 act, in section "49-O" that a person can go to the polling booth, confirm his identity, get his finger marked and convey the presiding election officer that he doesn't want to vote anyone !!!! Yes, such a feature is available, but obviously these seemingly notorious leaders have never disclosed it. This is called"49-O".
Why should you go and say "I VOTE NOBODY"... because, in a ward, if a candidate wins, say by 123 votes, and that particular ward has received "49-O" votes more than 123, then that polling will be canceled and will have to be re-polled. Not only that, but the candidature of the contestants will be removed and they cannot contest the re-polling, since people had already expressed their decision on them. This would bring fear into parties and hence look for genuine candidates for their parties for election. This would change the way, of our whole political system... it is seemingly surprising why, and election commission has not revealed such a feature to the public.... please spread this news to as many as you know... Seems to be a wonderful weapon against corrupt parties in India... show your power, expressing your desire not to vote anybody, is even more powerful than voting... so don't miss your chance. So either vote, or vote not to vote (vote 49-O) and pass this info on...

While there is some truth in the email, some of it is false.

Truth: Yes there is a clause in "Conduct of Election Rules, 1961" called 49-O, which is very similar to the one described in the email. The clause says:

"49-O. Elector deciding not to vote.-If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark." [Ref]

False: Although there is a clause named 49-O and it also give you a right not to vote, it has no tooth. I mean there is no provision for re-election, re-polling, or removal of the candidature of the candidates.

The clause is mainly to help avoid proxy voting. If you don't want to give your vote to anyone, and also don't want someone else to do proxy voting in your name, you can go and exercise your right to not to vote. This would make it impossible for someone else to cast vote in your name.

The problem in exercising this right is that your identity would be revealed. Earlier, in times of old Ballot Paper, you could leave the paper blank and drop it in the box. However, the new EVMs doesn't have an option of 'None of the above'. If you exercise this right, the polling official and the polling agent would come to know about it. The proposed election reforms have considered this issue, and have suggested an extra option on the EVMs. [Ref]

Now about the tooth part, there are PILs and several activists trying to convice Supreme Court and Election Commission to amend this clause and give it some tooth.

So there exists a clause named 49-O and it does take care of 'Negative / Neutral Voting'. However it doesn't have any option of cancelling the election in the particular are, or forcing re-polling.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Do you play Sudoku?

Sudoku is a combinatorial number puzzle. You have to fill in a 9x9 grid with numbers 1-9 in each line and in nine 3x3 squares. I started doing it back in 2005 when they started it in Indian newspapers!! I still do it in the newspapers and sometime on this website: Link

Today while searching for computer accessories, I found this product on deal:

The description of the product says "We all know that having a sit down can be a time consuming and boring process. Some people read, others sing. Why not play Sudoku with your loo paper?
The perfect gift for the person who has everything!"

As they say, if you are addicted to it, you would find time and place for it.\

Picture courtesy