The story of indelible ink, a lasting symbol of Indian elections

News Excerpt:

Devised as a method to prevent a person from casting more than one vote, the indelible ink has been used for decades in Indian elections. It has also travelled to other parts of the world to help in conducting elections.

About indelible ink:

What makes the ink indelible?

  • The purple colour ink that is put on a person’s finger once they have voted is made up of three elements — chemicals, dyes, and a special compound silver nitrate.
    • Silver nitrate is a colourless compound which becomes visible when exposed to ultraviolet light, including sunlight.
  • The higher silver nitrate’s concentration, say around 20 percent, the higher will be the ink’s quality.
  • For up to 72 hours after application it can remain resistant to soap, liquids, home-cleansing, detergents, etc.
  • Water-based ink also contains a solvent like alcohol to allow its faster drying.
  • The precise protocol for making this ink including its chemical composition and the quantity of each constituent is not known to many people.

Who makes the indelible ink for Indian elections?

  • The indelible ink was first manufactured at the ECI’s request by the government’s Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR).
    • The ink was later patented by the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC), New Delhi.
  • Mysore Paints & Varnish Ltd. has been licensed to manufacture the ink and has been in the business since 1962. 
    • Earlier called Mysore Lac & Paint Works Ltd, it was established in 1937 by Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, then the Maharaja of Mysore.

Export of the ink:

  • Indelible ink is exported to more than 25 countries that include Canada, Ghana, Nigeria, Mongolia, Malaysia, Nepal, South Africa and the Maldives.
  • However, the procedure of application can differ in each election. 
    • For example, in Cambodia and the Maldives, voters need to dip his/her finger into the ink while in Burkina Faso the ink is applied with a brush, and nozzles are used for its use in Turkey.

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