RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- IMPORTANCE OF VOTING
This year, India celebrated its 9th National Voters Day on January 25. The voters’ day celebration was initiated in 2011 by the then President of India, Pratibha Devi Patil, on the 61st foundation day of Election Commission of India. Established in 1950, the Election Commission of India is an organisation that aims to increase the participation of number of voters and to encourage newly eligible voters. National Voters’ Day 2019 was celebrated in over six lakh locations covering about ten lakh polling stations all over the country. President Ram Nath Kovind was the chief guest at the main function, organised by the Election Commission of India in the Capital. The best electoral practices and national awards were conferred to officers for their exceptional performance in conducting elections. ‘No voter to be left behind’ is the chosen theme for this year’s celebration and it is also the focus in the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections.
Election Commission of India:
- The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering election processes in India.
- The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, state legislatures, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country.
- The Election Commission operates under the authority of Constitution per Article 324, and subsequently enacted Representation of the People Act.
Role of ECI:
- Guardian of Free & Fair Elections.
- Issues a Model code of Conduct for political parties and candidates to conduct elections in free & fair manner.
- Registration of Political Parties and Allotment of Symbols
- The Election Commission has fixed the legal limits on the amount of money which a candidate can spend during election campaigns.
- Use of Scientific and Technological Advancement like introduction of EVM and computerizations of the electoral rolls.
- Election Commission – A Tribunal for Adjudication.
- Checking Criminalization of Politics.
- Cancellation of Polls due to rigging at any polling booth.
- The Election Commission has the power to disqualify a candidate if he or she does not file election returns within a prescribed period.
Recent Electoral Reforms:
The steady increasing electoral participation points out to the positive interventions made by Election Commission of India to secure the same.Free and fair elections attract more voters. The measures taken by ECI to attract voters include:
- Employing “Awareness Observer” across the country in order to compile a report on voting numbers and reasons behind low or high participation in each constituency so that ECI can work upon the hurdles.
- Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT)
- VVPAT is a method of providing feedback to voters using a ballot less voting system.
- The VVPAT is an independent printer system attached with Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) that allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended. It generates a paper slip every time a voter casts his vote, recording the party to whom the vote was made. The VVPAT slip is kept in a sealed cover.
- VVPAT slip counting takes place in the VVPAT counting booths under the close monitoring of the returning officer and direct oversight of the observer.
- Introducing Short Message Service and Toll Free Numbers so that people can ask details regarding enrolment process and address of polling station
- None of the Above:
- The Supreme Court, in September 2013, upheld the right of voters to reject all candidates contesting the elections, saying it would go a long way in cleansing the political system of the country.
- The apex court directed the Election Commission to have an option of ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) on the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and ballot papers in a major electoral reform.
- Thus, India became the 14th country to institute negative voting. However, NOTA in India does not provide for a ‘right to reject’. The candidate with the maximum votes wins the election irrespective of the number of NOTA votes polled.
- Live Monitoring of Sensitive Areas to ensure that no mischievous activities are carried at the polling station
- Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP)
- SVEEP is a programme of multi interventions through different modes and media designed to educate citizens, electors and voters about the electoral process in order to increase their awareness and participation in the electoral processes.
- SVEEP is designed according to the socio-economic, cultural and demographic profile of the state as well as the history of electoral participation in previous rounds of elections and learning thereof.
- Now it includes enhanced interaction with the citizens through social media, online contests and voters’ festivals; awareness about new initiatives of linking EPIC with AADHAAR and National Voters’ Service Portal and a regularised yearly plan of activities.
- In addition to target groups of women, youth, urban voters and the marginalized sections, the inclusion of groups like service voters, NRIs, persons with disabilities, prospective voters/ students is of primary focus.
- Replacing ballot papers through electronic voting machine to make the voting process easier.
- Electoral Bonds:
- Cash donations have been replaced by banking transactions.
- Electoral bonds have made the whole transaction secretive and opaque.
- Only the government knows who gave how much to which party.
- Organizing National Voters’ Day, Voter Fest and employing school children and renowned personalities as ambassadors to persuade people to cast their votes.
- Money power:
- The increasing role of money power in the form of voter bribery and funding of political parties
- Paid news:
- The manipulation of the media through paid news and other means.
- Criminalization of politics :
- Over the last two decades, the influence of criminals in the political arena has shown a tremendous increase.
- According to Vohra report the nexus between the criminal gangs, police, bureaucracy and politicians has come out clearly in various parts of the country.
- Political parties continue to put up criminals as candidates.
- Misuse of caste and religion for electoral gains :
- The use of religion, caste, community, tribe, and any other form of group identity for electoral gain or for gathering political support should not be allowed.
- Issue of electoral bonds :
- Analysts said the move could be misused, given the lack of disclosure requirements for individuals purchasing electoral bonds.
- Black money :
- Electoral bonds make electoral funding even more opaque. It will bring more and more black money into the political system.
- With electoral bonds there can be a legal channel for companies to round-trip their tax haven cash to a political party.
- If this could be arranged, then a businessman could lobby for a change in policy, and legally funnel a part of the profits accruing from this policy change to the politician or party that brought it about.
- These bonds share two characteristics with tax havenssecrecy and anonymity.
- Electoral bonds eliminate the 7.5% cap on company donations which means even loss-making companies can make unlimited donations.
- Hate speech by politicians
- EVM tampering issue and the case for VVPATs
- Financial transparency in political parties:
- This is also one of the fundamental deeper political reforms that is a necessary precondition that must be satisfied before any meaningful electoral reforms can actually take place on the ground
- Ensuring the independence of the ECI:
- Independence of the ECI, the manner of appointment of the CEC and ECs was debated.
- One member proposed ratification of CEC’s appointment by the Legislature, but the Constituent Assembly disagreed and it simply provided for the CEC to be appointed by the President, leaving it to the Legislature to enact a suitable law.
- The political class as well as the election commission should come together to find ways to decrimilize the elections.
- Entry of criminals in politics should be taken in more serious manner.
- Electoral reforms should be taken to take care of mushrooming in coalition politics.
- Alternative kind of methods such as proportional representations should be looked after.
- Facilitate internal migrants to vote which compromise 25-30% of the population.
- Proxy voting for NRI’s should be looked upon.
- Consenses among all stakeholders concerned.
Source: click here