Science Bytes

The election marker – the making of the indelible ink

Being inked as a bona fide voter and taking part in the election system of the nation, evokes a sense of pride. We have often flashed the spotted and darkened splash across our finger before a camera, to mark our active participation in the democratic process. But, what is this ink really made of and how is it so very ‘permanent’.

Envisaged to avoid multiple voting and malpractices, this ineradicable mark on the nail and the finger, cannot be removed with water, alcohol, nail polish remover or even bleach. The ink mostly contains water based solution of silver nitrate in a special solution for quick drying. It contains added biocide to ensure bacteria not getting transferred from one voter to the next. When the silver nitrate comes in contact with the skin, the salt present on the skin reacts with it, to form silver chloride. Silver chloride being insoluble in water makes a permanent mark which only goes off when the old skin cells die and gets replaced by new skin cells which takes few weeks.

India, being the largest democracy and among the most populous country, has always posed a challenge for the government and the Election Commission to hold and complete the process of general elections in a free and fair manner. To cater to the need of the Election Commission of India, the formula of indelible ink was developed by CSIR-National Physical Laboratory. National Physical Laboratory, NPL, is the prime institute that provides support, advices and apex calibration services to various government, semi-government and industries across India and in the SAARC nations. The know-how formula of indelible ink from CSIR-NPL was given to Mysore paints and Varnish Limited (MPVL), which is the sole authorized supplier of foolproof indelible ink in India. This indelible ink is also exported to countries like Sri Lanka, Middle East and African countries.

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