National Voters' Day In India To Usher a Sense of Pride and Participation among Indian Youth

By  Rajesh Malhotra
Director (M & C), Press Information Bureau, New Delhi

New Delhi, Jan 24, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB-India) The 25th of January every year, will be observed as the “National Voters’ Day”, throughout the country, starting from this year, which is the Election Commission’s foundation day. In this launch year, the day coincides with the conclusion of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the Commission. The Election Commission of India ( ECI) was set up on 25th January, 1950 while the Constitution came into force a day after, i.e 26th January, 1950.

The Election Commission’s objective behind National Voters’ Day is to increase enrolment of voters, especially of the newly eligible ones, by using this occasion so as to make universal adult suffrage a complete reality and thereby enhance the quality of Indian democracy. The day will also be utilized to spread awareness among voters regarding effective participation in the electoral process.

During the last 60 years, the Election Commission of India has conducted 15 General Elections to the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and 326 general elections to State Legislative Assemblies, thus facilitating peaceful, orderly and democratic transfer of power. From the Himalayan heights to the deserts, from isolated islands to dense forests and other extremely difficult areas, the Election Commission endeavours to reach out with the firm conviction that the vote of every eligible Indian counts. In its delivery of free, fair and transparent polls, the Commission considers it sacred to stay uncompromising and to fiercely guard its credibility.

The Commission’s journey has also witnessed a change in both quality and scale of its operations.  In 1962, the voting process moved from the balloting system to marking system and then, from 2004 onwards, to the present system based on Electronic Voting Machines. Multi-member constituencies have given way to single member constituencies. Printed electoral rolls have now been substituted by computerized photo-electoral rolls. The Elector’s Photo Identity Cards (EPICs), by now a cherished possession of all citizens, were issued to over 582 million voters in time for General Election 2009. Elections to the 15th Lok Sabha held in April-May 2009 have been described as the biggest management event in the world. It involved 714 million voters, 835,000 polling stations, 1.2 million Electronic Voting Machines and 11 million polling personnel. The management of elections in India has continually evolved, and still does, matching with the colossal proportions and ever-increasing complexity of the task.

Considering this mammoth election management exercise in the world, the Election Commission  is concerned about greater participation of citizens in the country’s electoral process as against the present level of apathy and non-involvement among certain sections, especially the youth.  Concern about this has also been voiced by the President and Prime Minister on various occasions. In particular, the Commission has found that the new voters (18+) are missing from the electoral roll in a big way year after year.  In certain cases, the level of their enrolment is as low as 20 to 25%.  The Commission is making serious efforts to enrol all eligible electors of the country at the earliest.

In order to effectively deal with this problem, the Commission has decided to take up a vigorous exercise to identify all the eligible voters attaining the age of 18 years as on 1st of January every year, in each of the 8.5 lakh polling station areas of the country.

In keeping with the objectives of the National Voters’ Day, a countrywide special campaign was taken up to reach out to the newly eligible (18+ ) electors, and to register them in the just concluded revision of electoral roll with reference to 1.1.2011 as the qualifying date. As a result of these efforts, 51.65 lakh  of youth in the 18-19 age group have been enrolled. These youth shall be enrolled on time and handed over their Elector Photo Identity Cards (EPICs) on the 25th January at a brief felicitation to be organized in each polling station area.  They will be administered a pledge that goes as follows : “We, the citizens of India, having abiding faith in democracy, hereby pledge to uphold the democratic traditions of our country and the dignity of free, fair and peaceful elections, and to vote in every election fearlessly and without being influenced by considerations of religion, race, caste, community, language or any inducement”. Besides the newly enrolled voters will also be given a badge with the slogan          “Proud to be a voter – Ready to vote”  during the felicitation ceremony along with their EPIC. This initiative is expected to give the youth a sense of citizenship, empowerment, pride and participation and also inspire them to exercise their franchise, when the occasion comes.

As a part of celebrations of the year 2010 as Diamond Jubilee Year by the ECI across the country, it adopted theme of “Greater Participation for a Stronger Democracy”. A whole range of activities was taken up during the year with a view to raise awareness among voters about their rights and duties with the help of media, civil society organization and academic institutions. As a result, participation of voters during the general elections to Legislative Assemblies of Jharkhand, held in 2009 and Bihar in 2010 witnessed significant increase. Besides a large number of Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities are also being taken up by the Election Commission at the State level including a multi-media campaign to popularise electoral participation and democratic practices and dissemination of information about electoral processes.

25th January, will be a historic moment in electoral democracy. The President, Smt Pratibha Devisingh Patil would launch India’s first National Voters’ Day, and that would mean that over five million Indian youth who turned 18 years and  registered as voters 25 days back would receive their voter ID Cards in 850,000 simultaneous events at polling stations spread all over the Country during the same day. They are part of a total number of 17 million eligible Indian citizens who have been added to the electoral roll this week. The objective behind the National Voters’ Day is not the ceremony, but to integrate the youth with the electoral process by using voters education as the major strategy.

- PIB Features