President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday said that voter’s participation in the electoral process is integral to the successful running of any democracy, while attending the 6th National Voters’ Day Celebrations here.
Speaking on the occasion, President Mukherjee said the National Voters’ Day signifies a mutual obligation. It is indeed the duty of the Election Commission of India to ensure that all eligible voters are included on the rolls. It is an onerous and continuous task. But it is equally the responsibility of citizens to enroll themselves as voters.
“Voter’s participation in the electoral process is integral to the successful running of any democracy. The level of voters’ participation reflects the people’s level of confidence and trust in democracy,” said President Mukherjee.
“Today is also the 67th foundation day of the Election Commission of India. This constitutional body came into existence on January 25, 1950 just a day before the celebration of the first Republic Day. It is a significant metaphor indicating that we received the Indian Republic with the mandate of the people,” he added.
The President said that elections are a festival of democracy. They are not merely a gigantic administrative exercise. He was happy that the Election Commission is using innovative ways to reach out to the people, particularly the youth.
“Though the rise of Social Media and internet has raised awareness in our youth, but we still have to pay special attention to those outside the ambit of these digital opportunities. Article 326 of the Constitution had fixed the minimum qualifying age of voting at 21 years. But, there were persistent demands that the voting age should be lower,” said President Mukherjee.
“Finally, the Constitution (Sixty-First) Amendment Act, lowered the minimum qualifying age to 18 years. In the 10th General Elections to Lok Sabha in November, 1989, an estimated 35.7 million voters between the age group of 18 to 21 years participated and exercised their electoral right. And, ahead of the 16th General Elections in 2014, there were 23.16 million voters between the age group 18 to 19 years alone. In fact, they constituted 2.8 percent of the national electorate,” he added.
The President said that the Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation – SVEEP, was borne out of IEC initiatives taken up by ECI after the Lok Sabha elections in 2009. He said that he was happy to note that today, the Voter Education programme of the Commission is spread out across the polling stations with an attempt to reach each and every citizen of the country, keeping in mind that those who are not yet eligible to be electors, are the prospective electors.
“The abuse of money and muscle power to influence voters remains a cause of concern. The spirit of democracy will be subverted if these malpractices are not checked. It is commendable that the Election Commission has taken up initiatives to promote ethical and informed voting. To expand its reach and facilitate eligible voters the Election Commission launched National Voter Service Portal (NVSP) which provides a host of services like online registration, searching names on voter lists, locating polling stations and other related assistance,” he added.
President Mukherjee also added that India is today the world’s largest functional democracy.
“When a newly independent India made Universal Adult Suffrage the basis of elections not all were convinced of our capability to implement it. However, the successful manner in which the very first elections were conducted put these speculations to rest. Since then, over the years, the Election Commission has been conducting elections successfully and improving on deficiencies to increase participation in elections,” he said.
He congratulated the Election Commission for making innovative changes. He also applauded the Commission for it’s new initiative of celebrating the voter with “Matdata Mahotsav” which was held recently in New Delhi ahead of the National Voters’ Day.
He concluded by saying that he was happy to recognize not only those higher up in the election machinery but also those who worked on the ground level for their contribution to cause of electoral participation. He also congratulated the newly enrolled electors to whom he gave away Elector Photo Identity Cards. He expressed confidence that they would exercise their rights with great care, without fear or favour.
President Mukherjee also received the first copy of the book ‘Belief in the Ballot’. This book is brought out by the Election Commission of India and published by Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.