The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | 17-01-2023 | 11:45 am
One of the significant features of India’s electoral record has been its progressive betterment on two major counts — in registering eligible citizens as electors, and achieving increased participation of electors in voting. While only 17 per cent were registered and 45 per cent of them turned out to vote in 1951 in India’s first general election, in 2019, India’s latest general election, over 91 per cent of its eligible citizens were registered with 67 per cent of them coming out to vote, which is the highest voter turnout in the nation’s history.It is, however, worrying that a third of the eligible voters, a whopping 30 crore people, do not vote. Among the many reasons, including urban apathy and geographical constraints, one prominent reason is the inability of internal migrants to vote for different reasons.The Election Commission had earlier formed a “Committee of Officers on Domestic Migrants” to address this issue. The Committee’s report submitted in 2016 suggested a solution in the form of “remote voting”. On Monday, to further address this serious problem, the EC invited representatives from all recognised national and state political parties to discuss the legal, administrative, and statutory changes to resolve the issue. The discussion took place in the presence of a technical expert committee. It is important to recall that the last major decision about the voting system was the introduction of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), with the consensus of all political parties in 2010.The consensus approach is imperative not only to keep intact the democratic heritage of the Commission but to help further entrench its popular trust and institutional integrity, which, in recent times, have been noticed to be in peril.The Constitution guarantees freedom of movement to every citizen and freedom to reside in any part of the country. However, migrant workers, especially circular or short-term migrants, constituting tens of millions of citizens are some of the least represented groups in the ballot. The issue of disenfranchisement faced by migrant workers is not one arising out of deliberate denial of the right to vote, but for lack of access to vote. The Supreme Court, in a series of cases, has conclusively interpreted the freedom to access the vote as within the ambit of Article 19(1)(a).According to the 2011 Census, the number of internal migrants stands at 450 million, a 45 per cent surge from the 2001 census. Among these, 26 per cent of the migration (117 million) occurs inter-district within the same state, while 12 per cent of the migration (54 million) occurs inter-state. Both official and independent experts admit that this number is underestimated. Short-term and circular migration could itself amount to 60-65 million migrants, which, including family members, could approach 100 million in itself. Half of these are inter-state migrants.The root cause of the migrant voters’ issue is that the individual’s inalienable right to vote is conditioned by a rather strict residency qualification. As a consequence, it tends to disenfranchise the migrant population. In the survey report, ‘Political inclusion of Seasonal Migrant Workers in India: Perceptions, Realities and Challenges’ by Aajeevika Bureau, it was found that “close to 60 per cent of respondents had missed voting in elections at least once because they were away from home seeking livelihood options”.Most migrant voters have voter cards for their home constituency — 78 per cent, according to a 2012 study. Most cannot commute to their home states on polling day. One survey shows that only 48 per cent voted in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections when the national average was 59.7 per cent. These patterns have stayed consistent. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, major sender states such as Bihar and UP had among the lowest voter turnout rates at 57.33 per cent and 59.21 per cent respectively, while the national average was 67.4 per cent.Although electoral laws let people register at their place of “ordinary residence”, most face difficulties to get residence proof. Moreover, many migrant voters may not be as intensively involved in the political affairs and interests in their host locations as they are in their home locations. There is a clear trade-off. Not registering at the host location will lead to a lack of interest of political parties in providing facilities to them. The law should provide them with the option to choose the place for registration.What is the way out?Section 60(c) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 empowers the Election Commission of India, in consultation with the government, to notify “classes” of voters who are unable to vote in person at their constituencies owing to their physical or social circumstances. Once notified, the voters are eligible for the ETPB system (Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System).In the 2019 general elections, the ETPB system was accessed by 18 lakh defence personnel across the country. In 2019, in the backdrop of a PIL before the Supreme Court, a bill was floated to extend a similar remote voting possibility to over 10 million adult NRIs in order to “boost their participation in nation-building”. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, more than 28 lakh votes were received via postal ballots.In the existing system, remote voting within the constituency by voting via postal ballot is available to senior citizens, people with disabilities, and Covid-affected personnel. The postal ballot voting outside the constituency is available only to service voters, persons on election duty and persons on preventive detention.The Indian migrant worker too deserves the secured right to have access to vote through some mechanism.The Election Commission has proposed the use of remote voting for migrant workers wherein a modified version of the existing model of M3 EVMs will be placed at remote polling stations. In fact, the Electronic Corporation of India Ltd. has already developed a prototype of a Multi-constituency Remote EVM (RVM) — a modified version of the existing EVM which can handle 72 constituencies in a single remote polling booth. Technical details will be available only after the crucial demonstration.I hope the meeting on Monday proves to be a turning point in resolving the migrant voting issue once and for all. The task is daunting. Getting political parties to agree on a “remote” machine is a tall order in view of the persisting questions even about the existing stand-alone EVMs.I wish EC success in its stated objective of “finding a technological solution which is credible, accessible and acceptable to all stakeholders”. Acceptable: That’s the keyword that must be respected.The writer is former Chief Election Commissioner of India and author of An Undocumented Wonder — The Making of the Great Indian Election
PUNE: There is a cold wave expected between 1st-4th Feb over Maharashtra, Mumbai will experience temperatures way below 0 degrees for the first time ever." This was among thousands of forwarded messages, including "The reintroduction of Rs 1000 notes into circulation is scheduled for February 1, 2023" and "Crypto currency is now a legal instrument of payment in India " that TOI recently busted as fake.Under the Times Verified campaign, readers send any suspicious messages then see circulating on social media to this paper on the WhatsApp number 9819888887. To verify their credibility, our expert panel - comprising reporters, editors and representatives from the municipality and government - taps into its carefully-cultivated network of trustworthy sources.Launched nationally on November 21 last year, the Times Verified initiative aims to break the chain of viral misinformation and disinformation that has been infecting social media groups. Since the launch, TOI's editorial team has received close to 1.2 lakh messages, half of which turned out to be false. Besides misleading headlines like "The retirement age for all Govt employees increased to 67 from 15th Jan 2023" and "12 passengers of Yeti Airlines that crashed, have survived and are getting treated at a local medical Center in Nepal", the fake news included panic-inducing messages like "Meta announces major down time of 3 days for all its social media platforms starting 3rd Feb 2023, resulting out of scheduled maintenance."Recently, at the Election Commission of India's international conference on the use of technology election integrity in Delhi, Anthony Banbury, president of the US-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems, stated that misinformation was one of the biggest threats to democracy and electoral integrity. Banbury said technological tools were being developed and made available to individuals, candidates, political parties and "malign actors". "More and more companies are willing to sell commercial services to candidates, parties or nefarious actors who want to influence election outcomes to spread misinformation campaigns, to attack political opponents. And where those attacks are coming from are not seen by those consuming the information via social media," Banbury added.In this scenario, the job of our chain-breakers - readers who have been forwarding dubious messages to help identify red flags - is significant. Among these fake news chain-breakers today are readers like Karnataka's Rathnakar Holla, West Bengal's Tapas Das and Maharashtra's Vivek Amonkar, Subhash Bahulekar and Atul Bag. To join them in the war on misinformation, all you have to do is send anxiety-causing headlines doing the rounds of social media networks to our expert panel.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis speaking at an election rally in Aurangabad.Aurangabad: A month after he said the Sena-BJP government in Maharashtra has no plans to restore the Old Pension Scheme, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis today spoke of a possible rethink."Let me be clear, we are not negative about it (OPS). We will discuss it with finance and other departments. But whatever be the solution, it has to be long-term, not short-term," the BJP leader said, mirroring the rather ambiguous position taken by his party in other states as well.The Congress and other Opposition parties have recently reverted to the OPS — phased out in early 2004 — in states they govern, such as Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan. The BJP has been against it, citing huge financial burden on governments, but its leaders have added a may-consider-it caveat.The OPS gave employees with 20 years of service at least 50 per cent of their last salary as pension, but the burden was entirely on the government and there was no corpus collected from the staff. Under the New Pension Scheme (NPS), government and staff both contribute — 10 and 14 per cent of the salary, respectively — towards a fund from which the pension is later drawn.Mr Fadnavis was speaking at a rally ahead of the January 30 Legislative Council polls, seeking votes for BJP's Kiran Patil from Aurangabad Division Teachers' Constituency. Mr Patil is hoping to unseat the NCP's Vikram Kale, who has raised the OPS demand."These people only talk (about OPS)," Mr Fadnavis said in a reference to the NCP, "But if there is going to be a change in the present pension scheme to the old one, only we (BJP) have the courage to do that; not these people."PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comHis comment comes less than two weeks after Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, too, said the his government is "positive" on this issue. He, too, was speaking at an election rally in support of a BJP candidate in a teachers' constituency.In December, however, responding to a BJP MLA's question in the assembly, Mr Fadnavis had said, "The government will not revive the old pension scheme. It will put an additional burden of Rs 1.1 lakh crore on the state exchequer."
Questions over whether Uddhav Thackeray would continue to remain the president of Shiv Sena abounds as the Election commission has not yet given the go-ahead for the camp to hold its national executive meet where they could relect him.Thackeray's term as president of the party ends on January 23. While the Sena canp had petitioned the Election Commission to allow it to hold its national executive the EC has not yet decided on petition. The faction loyal to Uddhav and experts however claim that even without the EC nod Uddhav would continue to remain the Shiv Sena president."The party will decide who the party president is and for our party it will be Uddhav Thackeray," said Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut while speaking to reporters in Jammu.In Maharashtra too, other leaders of the Uddhav faction like Shiv Sena MLA Bhaskar Jadhav and the Shiv Sena's Opposition leader of the Legislative council Ambadas Danve claimed that Uddhav would remain the party president even without the elections.ET spoke to Professor Ulhas Bapat an expert on constitution law, Bapat claimed that Uddhav would remain the Shiv Sena President even after his term ends.
As per the annual reports of political parties released by the Election Commission (EC) Tuesday, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has shown total receipts of Rs 1,917.12 crore and expenditure of Rs 854.46 crore in Financial Year 2021-’22. It received contributions through electoral bonds to the tune of Rs 1,033.7 crore.The Congress in its annual audit report for Financial Year 2021-22 has shown its expenditure at Rs 400.41 crore and receipts of Rs 541.27 crore. It has shown grants, donations and contributions to the tune of Rs 347.99 crore.The 2019 to 2020 financial year, which saw the previous Lok Sabha polls, saw the highest income and spending by parties over the last five years. In this period, the BJP’s income touched Rs 3,623.28 crore, as per the Election Commission reports. That year, it declared its expenditure as Rs 1,651.02 crore. The Congress also saw its income go up to Rs 682.2 crore, while its expenditure was Rs 998.15 crore.Analysis of data over the last five years shows that there has been a fluctuation in the incomes and expenditures of the two parties. Besides the poll year, the BJP’s income in the year 2017-’18 was relatively high at Rs 1027.3 crore. The following financial year, 2018-’2019, it was the lowest at Rs 241 crore.A look at how the two parties income and expenditure fared in the previous years:BJP Income over the yearsCongress income over the years
With more than a month to go for the Kasba Assembly bypoll in Maharashtra, all eyes are on the BJP, which is yet to announce its candidate. The bypoll was necessitated due to the demise of sitting BJP legislator Mukta Tilak. While a few local BJP leaders have demanded that the party field a member of the Tilak family to enable an unopposed election as a tribute to Mukta Tilak, a former Pune mayor, other aspirants are waiting in the wings.After Tilak succumbed to cancer last month, BJP leader Ujjwal Keskar publicly made a statement urging the party to consider her husband Shailesh or son Kunal as their candidate for the bypoll scheduled on February 27.“The Kasba bypoll should be unopposed as a tribute to Mukta Tilak and the party should support a member of the Tilak family. Thus, a request has been made to BJP leaders to provide a ticket to a Tilak family member,” said Keskar.According to BJP sources, while the party is yet to take a decision, the Tilak family is not averse to contesting the election if a family member gets a party ticket.However, as the Tilak family members lack political experience, this has raised hopes among other aspirants, including Ganesh Bidkar, Hemant Rasane and Dheeraj Ghate. The name of Medha Kulkarni, former BJP legislator from Kothrud Assembly seat, is also making the rounds. She was asked to refrain from contesting elections to make way for then state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil to contest from the Kothrud seat, which was considered to safe seat for BJP. Kulkarni had registered her protest but was later pacified and made vice-president of the national unit of the BJP women’s wing.From the Opposition, Congress leader Arvind Shinde, the city unit chief who lost to Mukta Tilak in 2019, said he has already conveyed to the party that the local unit was ready to contest the seat. The Congress also has another aspirant, Ravindra Dhangekar, who contested the seat as a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) candidate in 2014 and lost to Girish Bapat.Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Rupali Patil Thombare, who recently switched sides from MNS, has also expressed her wish to contest the Kasba bypoll if her party permits. Thombare had pointed out that the BJP has been fielding candidates in bypolls for seats that were vacated due to the demise of other politicians. However, she was pulled up for going public with her wish to contest.Local Shiv Sena (UBT) leaders have also conveyed their readiness to contest the Kasba bypoll.The Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance is likely to come up with a strategy for the bypoll elections. They are presently contesting state Legislative Council seats as an alliance.