A SURVEY conducted by the Punjabi University, Patiala, for the state election commission ahead of the Punjab Assembly polls in 2017 has revealed that the voters are disenchanted with the increasing money and muscle power in elections and that a sizeable percentage feel that women should consult male family members or elders before voting.
The survey on knowledge, aptitude and practices of voters has been carried out by the University Institute of Impact Assessment (UIIA) of Punjabi University and has been submitted to the State Election Commission. Election commission officials said they were studying the results of the survey and would use the information to improve the electoral process.
The Indian Express accessed the key findings of the report that say increasing corruption in politics has led to loss of faith in political system among the people. Another important factor emerging from the study is the rampant use of money, alcohol and drugs to lure the voters. The report says that one of the major reasons stated by the people for losing faith in the political system is criminalisation of politics.
The survey involved 3,927 respondents with the majority of the them being in the age group of 26 to 60 years and 74.09 per cent of them being under the age of 40 years. As per the data, 21.7 per cent of the respondents said women should consult male family members or elders before voting in elections and 85.77 per cent of the respondents influence of money and muscle is increasing in elections. As much as 96.55 per cent said they intended to vote in the upcoming elections while 58.27 per cent felt that the elections were held in a free and fair manner. 85.56 per cent felt that the EVMs gave accurate results while 91.27 per cent said voting should be made compulsory. 93.12 per cent of the respondents said they were of the view that every vote counts in elections.
A large section of the people want the option of right to reject to be given to them. Absence of basic facilities at polling stations was another important aspect highlighted by them. Lack of civil education in general was observed to be a major drawback in voters’ awareness, the report says adding that despite best efforts by the Election Commission (EC) to educate and to make the electorate aware of the dos and don’ts of the electoral process there seems to be a large gap in terms of efforts made by the EC and the reach to the public.
“It was observed during the survey and can even be analysed by observing the voting patterns of the past elections that urban voters are less motivated as far as electoral participation is concerned,” the report states. The number of people who had knowledge about various initiatives of the EC such as the website, helpline number and various edutainment campaigns run by the EC was alarmingly low. However, majority of the respondents were satisfied with the working of the EC as far as they were concerned. They blamed politicians and political parties for the mess and wanted EC to deal strictly with them.
The survey was carried out in rural as well as urban areas, said H S Bhatti, director, UIIA. “The survey was carried out by dividing the state into four zones with two zones in Malwa, being bigger in size, and one zone each in Doaba and Majha. The most common feedback which we received was that voters are very much disenchanted with the political system and they feel that the politicians only come to them for votes while for the rest of the term of the assembly they are virtually forgotten. In fact, our team faced hostility in many areas as we were mistaken for an official set up conducting a survey and we had to make announcements on radio and personally informed the respondents too that this was an independent report being prepared,” he said.
Of 123 respondents who recalled seeing advertisements, only 10.78 per cent respondents in urban areas and 7.42 per cent in rural areas recalled seeing or reading the campaigns run by the EC. 4.88 per cent have seen the former president APJ Abdul Kalam in campaigns, 1. 63 per cent cricketer M S Dhoni, 1.63 per cent have seen boxer Mary Kom, 81 per cent have seen badminton player Saina Nehwal.
The most common reason for people not coming forward for enrollment has been found to be lack of knowledge about the process followed by lack of proper documents needed for enrollment. The most common reason for registered voters not participating in the electoral process was identified as non-availability of EPIC and voter slips. Most of the respondents who participated in the voting process found the process to be easy and did not face any difficulty in voting.