When independent India was laying the groundwork for its first elections in 1952, workers at a factory in Mumbai’s Vikhroli were making history.

They were manufacturing the first-ever ballot boxes to be used in the general elections.

At Plant 1 of the Godrej & Boyce Mfg Co Ltd, these workers produced nearly 12.83 lakh ballot boxes within four months.

The Election Commission drew pictorial symbols for political parties, so voters didn’t have to read the names out.

This ensured that even those who were not literate could cast their vote without needing someone to help them.

They also set the system of marking voters with indelible ink to prevent second voting. The biggest question, though, was who would manufacture the lakhs of ballot boxes.

Apart from being sturdy and cost-effective, the manufacturers had to ensure that the boxes were tamper-proof.

Besides, external locks were very expensive. At this time, the skilled shop-floor worker at Godrej, Nathalal Panchal, came to the rescue.

After 50 designs and prototypes, one ballot box was deemed technically acceptable and economically viable.

Panchal had finally designed a ballot box that ticked all the criteria. “It could only be opened by breaking a pre-impressed insignia and manipulating the locking lever through the aperture covered by the insignia,” Vrunda Pathare, chief archivist at Godrej, told The Hindu Business Line.

The workers manufactured 15,000 ballot boxes a day, even clocking their best at 22,000 boxes per day!

Even at a time where raw materials like steel were in short supply, more than 82,000 tonnes of steel were used in manufacturing these boxes.

As shocking as it is, the production cost of one ‘olive green’ ballot box was just Rs 5. Once this order was ready, the boxes were shipped to more than 23 states in India.

Godrej-made ballot boxes were used in the elections from the 1950s until the 1960s.