In a democracy like India, election arrives with an anticipation of change. Every candidate and party promises to bring about various changes in the country and the lives of its people. Whether such promises are fulfilled or not is a debatable question. However, one thing that remains constant in every parliamentary, assembly and civic body elections in India is the vital role that a Mysore based small ink factory plays. This factory produces the ink that is used to mark the voters who participate in the election process in India.
Role played by the Mysore ink factory in Indian elections
Mysore Paints and Varnishes Private Ltd. (MPVPL) is the company that produces and supplies the indelible ink that is used in every election in India. The ink is used to mark the index finger of all voters to denote that the particular citizen has exercised his or her voting right. The mark helps to avoid fraudulent or multiple voting and malpractices.
It is interesting to note that MPVPL is the sole authorised factory that manufactures and distributes the marking ink that is used for the elections in India. It has an exclusive license granted by the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC) to manufacture the voter’s ink.
The factory is owned and operated by the Government of Karnataka. The ink from this factory was used for the first time in the Lok Sabha election in India in 1962 and has since been used in every Parliamentary election and almost every assembly and local election.
How the Mysore ink factory is related to the number of voters in India
One of the major customers of MPVPL is the Election Commission of India. The Election Commission places orders for the indelible ink based on the number of voters involved in the election in India. The ink produced for the election process is subject to thorough scrutiny before it is packed and sealed in crates to be dispatched to various states in India under strict security measures.
In India the indelible ink comes in various bottles or vials containing 5 ml, 7.5 ml, 20 ml, 50 ml and 80 ml of ink. Each vial or bottle containing about 5 ml of the indelible ink can be applied to mark nearly 300 voters.
In recent times the Election Commission of India has adopted a new procedure for the application of the indelible ink to the voters. In the just concluded Lok Sabha elections in India this new procedure was followed to apply the ink. As per the procedure, the ink is applied as a line running from top of the nail to the bottom of first joint of the left forefinger. Due to this modification of the procedure, the ink factory was required to supply more quantity of ink for the election process.
Initially the company used to provide the ink in glass bottles. However, due to the brittleness of glass and losses incurred due to leaks and breakage, the company switched to plastic bottles from glass phials in 1979.
The indelible ink of the Mysore ink factory
The indelible ink produced by the company is a specialized product that cannot be washed away by any known chemical or solvent.
The ink is violet in colour when it is inside the bottle. When it is applied on a finger and gets exposed to sunlight or even indoor light, it attains a dark colour due to its photosensitive nature. As the ink is photosensitive it is stored in amber-coloured bottles and guarded from exposure to direct sunlight.
The voter’s ink stays on the finger or nail for one month. The ink is a means to prevent electoral fraud or double voting. It is an effective method in large democracies like India where identification documents are not always standardised or institutionalised.
The main raw materials for producing the ink are silver and rectified spirit. The chemical composition for the ink has been developed by the National Physical Laboratory, with whom the patent of the ink also rests. The process for manufacturing the ink is a closely guarded secret.
Supplier of voter’s ink to several democracies worldwide
Mysore Paints and Varnishes Private Ltd. (MPVPL) is reckoned to be the largest manufacturer of voter’s ink in Asia. They are specialists in manufacturing and supplying of indelible ink to new and young democracies worldwide. Apart from providing indelible ink for elections in India, MPVPL also exports the voter’s ink to 35 other countries across the world including countries like Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, South Africa, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Nigeria, Ghana, Canada, Burkina Faso, Singapore, Togo, Malaysia, Sierra Leone, Fiji Island, Cambodia, Pakistan, etc. The company has been providing ink to some of these countries since 1978.
The company also manufactures various other products like chemical-resistant paints, enamels, distempers, primers, postage stamp cancellation, sealing wax, and polishes.
History of the Mysore ink factory
Mysore Paints and Varnishes Private Ltd. (MPVPL) was established in the year 1937. It was converted into a public sector undertaking in 1947. The company obtained ISO-9001/2000 Certification in the year 2002.
The company was set up by the then maharaja of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV. He set up the company and the factory to make use of the wax that was found in the forests surrounding Mysore at that time. He named the company Mysore Lac Factory and started it with an initial investment of Rs. 1.03 crore. The factory was built amidst 16 acres of wooded area that is today located in a quiet corner of Mysore, around 1 km off the Bangalore-Mysore highway.
The maharaja intended to produce sealing wax on a large scale through this company. Sealing wax was the first produce of the company. The sealing wax produced by the company was used in postal offices along the length and breadth of the country. This wax is still used to secure ballot boxes.
The company started manufacturing paint after it was handed over to the Government of Karnataka in 1947. In the year 1962 the company was chosen to manufacture indelible ink by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) to mark the voters for the third general elections in India. Since then the company has been enjoying a monopoly in the manufacturing of voter’s ink for elections in India.
The Government of Karnataka holds a 91.39 per cent stake in the company. The remaining shares are owned by about 1000 shareholders. The company is listed on the Bangalore Stock Exchange but its shares are not traded.
In 2010-11 the company received the CM Ratna award from the Government of Karnataka in recognition of its work.
A few interesting facts about the Mysore ink factory
- The company still utilizes its first product, the sealing wax, on a daily basis. Every evening after the factory shuts down the guard seals the lock with the sealing wax produced by the company.
- The voter’s ink is not sold to the general public. The product is sold to only those who have a legal and genuine need for the ink.
- The voter’s ink is also used for Pulse Polio campaigns held across the country.
- The ink is used in some hospitals to mark cancer affected areas of the body
- For elections in India the maximum demand of about three lakh vials of 10 ml each comes from Uttar Pradesh while the smallest order of about 120 vials of 10 ml each comes from the Lakshadweep islands
It is indeed interesting to note that one small ink factory in Mysore is responsible for marking more than 800 million fingertips across the largest democracy in the world and guard against fraudulent and multiple voting in the country.