President Pranab Mukherjee will hand over the awards for best electoral practices to over 20 government officers on Wednesday to mark the seventh National Voters Day. National Voters Day is celebrated every year on January 25 — the foundation day of the Election Commission of India (ECI) — to promote participation in elections and increase voter enrollment, especially of youngsters in the 18 to 19 years age group.
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Apart from the national event held in the Capital, the day is celebrated across all polling stations in the country where first-time voters of the area are invited to a function to collect their Elector Photo Identity Cards (EPIC).
This year, the ECI will also hand over EPIC to “future voters” in the age group of 15-17 years. The latter is part of the new awareness programme focused on students of classes IX to XII. Under this initiative, an awareness drive was conducted by electoral officers who visited schools and encouraged students to enroll as voters as soon as they turn 18.
Government officers serving in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu have bagged the maximum number of awards for innovative electoral practices this year. Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and Kerala’s IT Mission will be recognised for encouraging voter enrollment and participation.
The first National Voters Day was celebrated in 2011 under the leadership of the then Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) S Y Quraishi. “When I took over (as the CEC), my biggest concern was voters’ apathy. At that time only 12 per cent of youngsters in the 18-19 years age group were registered as voters. The indifference among the youths was rooted in lack of awareness about eligibility and enrollment process. Although voter education was not the Election Commission’s mandate then, I decided that an extensive awareness drive was the only way to end voters’ apathy,” he said.
Quraishi then proposed the government to dedicate a day to the voters of the country. The proposal was passed by the Cabinet and January 25 was designated as National Voters Day.
Since then the voter enrollment among 18 to 19 years olds has increased from 12 to almost 75 per cent, Quraishi said. “Although an increase in voter turnout is attributed to anti-incumbency and overwhelming support for one political leader, but the truth is that it is because of the awareness drive and initiatives like National Voters Day,” he added.
Six countries, including Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan, have emulated India’s example and started celebrating National Voters Day in their countries.