During the first phase of the general election last week, several voters reported that the indelible ink was wearing off just hours after they left the booth. Social media was rife with posts by users demonstrating that the mark could be removed using nail polish remover or any alcohol-based solution. Media professionals Bhupendra Chaubey and Ritu Kapur posted before and after photographs of their index fingers on Twitter. On the same platform, a voter from Tripura suggested that the ink mark was nothing but stamp-pad ink.
Lounge spoke to Sneha Manasa Vedula, 29, a media and communication professional in the National Capital Region, who says the ink applied on her index finger looked “watery”. Vedula voted in the Gautam Buddh Nagar constituency of Uttar Pradesh on 11 April. “I have been voting for a long time now. Usually the voting ink is thicker and a bit darker. My parents also saw their marks fade away after they washed their hands once we returned from the voting booth,” she says.
These reports were surprising given that the ink is specifically designed to counter fraudulent voting. It is manufactured by Mysore Paints and Varnish Ltd (MPVL), the sole authorized supplier in the country. They have been supplying indelible ink since 1962, working with the Election Commission of India, National Physical Laboratory and National Research Development Corporation. A Press Information Bureau special feature on the 2014 general election stated that MPVL has been supplying indelible ink since 1976 to 28 countries.
A recent Mint report stated that the Election Commission said it stood by the “high standards” of the ink, but had sought a report. An email request to MPVL elicited no response.
Indelible inks have traditionally had a fixed amount of silver nitrate. According to the MPVL website, their indelible ink has a concentration of 7-25% silver nitrate. When this solution comes in contact with human skin and is exposed to UV light, it forms silver chloride, which is insoluble in water—this is what makes it almost impossible to wash off.