The fascinating story behind India’s election ink

Amid India’s ongoing elections, the iconic purple-black ink marks on voters’ fingers are hard to miss.

Produced exclusively by Mysore Paints and Varnishes Limited, a Karnataka government agency, the ink plays a vital role in preventing fraudulent voting by marking individuals who have voted.

Approximately 2.65 million bottles of the colorfast ink are produced each election cycle, with each bottle holding 10 ml.

The use of indelible ink to prevent multiple voting is a longstanding tradition in Indian elections.

Originally mentioned in the Representation of the People Act (RoPA) 1951, ink is applied to the thumb or finger of an elector before he or she receives the ballot paper.

This practice continued until the advent of electronic voting machines (EVMs), where voters now apply ink before casting their vote by pressing a button on the EVM.

This indelible ink contains silver nitrate and is resistant to soaps, liquids and detergents for up to 72 hours after application.

Its chemical composition and manufacturing process are closely guarded secrets, known only to a select few.

The ink was originally developed by scientists at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in the 1950s in response to the need to combat electoral fraud.

Mysore Paints & Varnish Ltd. has been licensed to produce this ink since 1962.

Interestingly, the application of colorfast ink varies from country to country. In Cambodia and the Maldives, for example, voters dip their fingers into the ink, while in Burkina Faso they apply it with a brush.

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