In order to boost the participation of the citizens in the democratic electoral process, every year National Voters’ Day is observed on 25th January. A regular practice that was initiated in 2011 to commemorate the foundation day of the Election Commission of India and also to enhance the participation of the voters, especially the youth, in the democratic process. The day also takes us back in the past when Shyam Saran Negi from Kalpa, Himachal Pradesh, who is 98 years old retired schoolteacher, cast the first vote in the 1951 general elections in India. The nation’s first election since the end of the British Raj in 1947. Negi has voted in every general election since 1951, and is believed to be India’s oldest voter as well its first.
The Election Commission’s purpose behind National Voters’ Day is to increase enrolment of voters, especially of the newly eligible ones, by using this occasion to make universal adult suffrage a complete reality, and thereby enhance the quality of Indian democracy. The day promotes nationalistic feelings & spread awareness among voters to take active participation in the electoral process.
The theme for the 6th National Voters’ Day is ‘Inclusive and Qualitative Participation’. This year, Election Commission of India is all set to present tableau with the theme ‘Inclusive and Qualitative Participation’ at the Republic Day parade on 26th, January 2016 at Rajpath, New Delhi.
25th January has already assumed a status of historical importance in India’s electoral democracy. As per the official reports of Voters’ registration, approximately 3.83 crore new registrations have been done throughout the country, out of which 1.11 crore are in the age group 18-19 as on January 1, 2012, which was the qualifying date. Last year 52 lakh young voters, who had attained the age of 18 years, had been enrolled which marked the biggest empowerment of youth on a single day anywhere in the world.
During the last 60 years, the Election Commission of India has conducted 15 General Elections to the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and 331 general elections to State Legislative Assemblies, thus facilitating peaceful, orderly and democratic transfer of power. 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.
All the disturbing issues relating to elections such as corruption, casteism, communalism and hate speeches ultimately crops up because of the lack of participation of ordinary populace in elections. National Voters’ Day, if viewed in a broader perspective, is aimed at reaching out to the people, learning the reasons for their disillusionment from the popular process and helping them in realizing the fact that democracy is not complete until everyone is part of it. The recent 2014 Lok Sabha elections, which has recorded the highest voter turnout ever at 66.4% presents a positive picture about the future and reinstates our faith in the electoral process.
ECI has also devised a ‘NOTA’ option to enable electors who do not wish to vote for any of the candidates to exercise their right not to vote for any candidate without violation of the secrecy of their decision. This is a brilliant step to include all the voices of the electorate to present comprehensive picture of the elections. Furthermore, seeing the large electroal mandate in India, reports suggest that Election Commission has been exploring ways to create a mechanism of internet voting in India. Infact, ECI has been working hard to find a possibility through which Non-resident Indians may be able to cast their votes through Internet. Election Commission on this occasion once again reaffirms that it will not relent until every single voter is willing to vote and continues to participate in the largest democratic electoral process.
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