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Home / India News / Covid-19: EC allows use of indelible ink for home quarantine stamps

Covid-19: EC allows use of indelible ink for home quarantine stamps

This is the first time that EC has made such a move.

india Updated: Mar 25, 2020 20:28 IST
Deeksha Bhardwaj
Deeksha Bhardwaj
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Medics put 'home quarantine' stamp on passengers after thermal screening in the wake of deadly coronavirus, at Guwahati Railway Station.
Medics put 'home quarantine' stamp on passengers after thermal screening in the wake of deadly coronavirus, at Guwahati Railway Station.(PTI/Representative Image)

In a rare move, the Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday allowed the use of its “proprietary” indelible ink to mark people who have been quarantined at home in the coronavirus outbreak.

The ink, so far used during elections and manufactured by a Mysore-based company only for the EC, will now be made available to the states. The ink mark lasts for over a month. The commission, say senior poll officials, has reached out to the health ministry to standardise a mark that is different from the one used during elections.

“The move was spurred by a clarification sought by the chief electoral officer of Karnataka after the chief secretary of the state inquired if they could use the ink,” an EC official told Hindustan Times.

“The decision has been taken in public interest keeping in view the demand from states to use an indelible marker on quarantined individuals,” election commissioner Ashok Lavasa told Hindustan Times. “EC has provided safeguards to ensure that the sanctity of the election procedure is maintained.”

A notification issued by EC on Wednesday details the safeguards. “The Ministry may standardise the mark and the location on the body where the mark has to be applied so that it does not come in the way of conduct of elections anywhere in the country,” it stated.

“The authorities concerned shall be instructed to maintain the record of the persons to whom Indelible Ink is applied. The authorities shall also be instructed to ensure that the Indelible Ink shall not be used for any other purpose,” it adds.

The health ministry, said a second EC official who did not want to be named, will be allowed to choose how to mark those in home quarantine. “The officials who will be using the ink will also be told about the voting mark and asked to not use it. A record of people who have been marked will also be maintained,” the official said.

According to former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi, the move is a first of sorts for the EC.

“The ink cannot be used without EC’s permission, as it is a “proprietary item” in a sense,” Quraishi said.

“Requests to export the ink are a commonplace occurrence,”he added. “The Election Commission is also liberal to a certain extent in granting such permission as long as the electoral procedure is not compromised and the capacity to provide it exists. This is a good decision that the EC has taken.”

Quraishi added that the ink had in the past been exported to some countries for the purpose of elections and even, at times, gifted after proper approval from EC.

Maharashtra has already begun ‘stamping’ those in 100% quarantine on March 17, after the number of cases in the state spiked. The date of isolation is stamped on the left palm of the individual with ink that would last for 14 days.

District magistrate south-west Delhi Rahul Singh said a different version of the same principle was earlier being implemented by the government.

“We were stamping those coming from abroad with ink that lasted 20-25 days,” Singh said. “It was important to identify potential carriers so as to avoid transmission of the virus.”

Singh added that he had not yet received any guidelines on how use to the EC’s ink from the government.

Singh has also initiated a system to ensure the delivery of groceries and medicines through phone calls for those who have been home quarantined in his district; a move the central government is at present contemplating.