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National Voters’ Day – The Big Picture – RSTV IAS UPSC

  • IASbaba
  • April 14, 2021
  • 0
The Big Picture- RSTV, UPSC Articles
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TOPIC: General studies 2

  • Indian polity; Government laws and policies; Policy reforms 
  • Democratic governance and society

In News: National Voters’ Day is celebrated all across the country on January 25 every year since 2011, to mark the foundation day of the Election Commission of India, i.e. 25th January 1950. The main purpose of the National Voters Day celebration is to encourage, facilitate and maximize enrolment, especially for new voters.

Theme: ”Making Our Voters Empowered, Vigilant, Safe and Informed”

Background

  • Election Commission of India is a Constitutional Body created under Article 324 of the Constitution of India. 
  • The first Chief Election Commissioner was appointed on 21st March 1950. Since its creation, the Commission was a single member body except for a brief period from 16th October 1989 to 1st January 1990 when it was converted into a three member body. 
  • Subsequently, since 1st October 1993, the Commission has been a three-member body, consisting of the Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.
  • The National Voters’ Day celebration was initiated in India in 2011 by the then-President of India, Pratibha Devi Patil, on the 61st foundation day of Election Commission of India.
  • The Constitution (Sixty-First Amendment) Act, 1988 had lowered the threshold voting age from 21 years to 18 years.

Launch of 

Election Commission of India’s Web Radio: ‘Hello Voters’ – an online digital radio service. 

e-EPIC (Electronic Electoral Photo Identity Card) programme: The e-EPIC is a non-editable secure portable document format (PDF) version of the EPIC (approx. 250 KB) which can be downloaded on mobile or in a self-printable form on the computer.

  • A voter can thus store the card on his mobile, upload it on Digi locker or print it and self-laminate it. This is in addition to physical IDs known as PVC EPIC being issued for fresh registration. 
  • The e-EPIC will also have a secured QR code with the serial number, part number, date of poll, etc along with the image of the voter for identification.
  • The e-EPIC initiative would be launched in two phases:-
    • First phase- It will start from From January 25 to 31. Only new voters can apply for the voter-ID card and register their mobile numbers in Form-6 to download the e-EPIC by authenticating their mobile number. The mobile numbers should be unique and not be previously registered. 
    • Second phase- It will start from February 1 and will be open for the general voters. People who have given their mobile numbers (linked one) they can also download their e-EPIC.

As a voter..

We should always respect the valuable right to vote. The right to vote is not a simple right; people around the world have struggled a lot for this. Since independence, our Constitution has given equal voting rights to all citizens without any discrimination on the basis of merit, religion, race and caste. For this, we are indebted to the makers of our Constitution.

The origin of Indian democracy, in particular the establishment of its edifice through the implementation of universal adult franchise, was an ingeniously Indian enterprise. It was no legacy of colonial rule, and was largely driven by the Indians, often by people of modest means. The turning of all adults into voters was a staggering democratic state-building operation of inclusion and scale, which surpassed any previous experience in democratic world history. This work was undertaken by Indian bureaucrats between August 1947, when the country became independent, and January 1950, when it adopted the Constitution.

The fundamental problem lies in viewing voting as a transaction, the aim of which is to get some benefit for an individual or a group. But we have to recognise that voting is not like any other transaction. The duty that is inherent in the act of voting is an ethical duty, not just a constitutional one. It is the duty of having to act not for individual benefit, such as money or ideology, but for the benefit of the larger society. Such benefit for the larger society will include others benefiting as much as each one of us does through each of our votes. This duty is the ethical rationality related to voting. It is also a recognition that a democratic action like voting is primarily for the good of something larger than one’s self interests.

Why is voting important for democratic countries?

“Casting vote is a sacred duty and those who do not use the democratic right should feel the ‘pain’ of not exercising their franchise.” – PM Narendra Modi

  • Voting is a basic process that helps to form a country’s government. One can choose their representatives through voting.
  • Voting rights enables people with the right to question the government about issues and clarifications.
  • It also provides a sense of freedom to express opinion in major decision making for the benefit of the country in a democratic nation.

Costs that the voter is willing to pay, if ready to vote

The costs aren’t limited to taking the time out to vote, finding your polling booth or standing in the winding queues all morning, but also acquiring information about the candidates, campaign promises, and most importantly, analysing who is good for you and your fellow constituents.

Despite this, voters might like to vote to signal that they care about contributing to this public good. Numerous empirical studies have shown that a combination of a sense of civic duty, moral responsibility and social pressure brings voters to the polling booths. Once a voter has decided to turn up, then she might as well vote for the candidate that she prefers, even if it is a mild preference. That still makes her go through the cognitively demanding task.

  • One solution is economic voting—you re-elect the party/candidate if the economy is doing well and vote them out otherwise and this can be seen from our national election data as well.
  • Another option is to look at elections as a grade card on incumbents—reject an office holder who did not meet your expectations in general or re-elect and retain the ones who did.

Then there is whole other issue – Voting remains home-bound

While millions criss-cross the country for work, the vote remains homebound as there is little effort to make it possible for migrant workers to vote from where they are. After each election, parties look to the Election Commission (EC) to find out the percentage of people who voted for them. But what often gets overlooked is the number of people who did not turn up to vote — even though sometimes their number is higher than the winning margin. True, there are some who don’t vote because they couldn’t care less. But there are many who are very involved but can’t vote because they are not registered in the place where they are “ordinarily resident”. A large number of them are migrant workers, who are enrolled in their native places but have moved elsewhere for work.

Section 20 of the Representation of the People (RP) Act says a person can be registered as a voter in any constituency where he is “ordinarily resident”. In case he migrates to another constituency, all he needs to do is fill up a voter enrolment form at the new place while requesting that his name be deleted from the old list.

However, not many migrants, most of whom are poor and not very educated, bother to have themselves enrolled every time they move to a new place for work. The process of enrolling takes time. It requires the migrant worker to submit proof of the new residence, which is not always available. On voting day, not many migrant workers can go to their native place to vote, as their employers may not give them leave or they may not be able to afford the journey. So, they end up not voting.

What they obviously need is a facility allowing them to vote from where they are. This is a facility the government wants to introduce for NRIs, with the Lok Sabha passing a bill last August to amend the RP Act for facilitating proxy voting by NRIs from their countries of residence. But there’s no such plan to facilitate voting for domestic migrants.

Connecting the Dots:

  1. A voter is the bedrock of the institution of democracy. Discuss.
  2. Illustrate the contribution of Election Commission in strengthening democracy in India.  
  3. Active participation in a democracy should be voluntary. Is compulsory voting against democracy? Substantiate your answer with a critical examination of the above statement.

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