Link welfare schemes to voting

Need to make voters more accountable, say opinion leaders

The low voter turnout in the GHMC elections has raised a clamour for making voting mandatory and penalising the absentees in some form or the other or at least instil the fear that democratic right given by the Constitution should be honoured for a healthy democracy.

Political parties, academics, government servants and civil rights activists have come out openly saying some punitive measures are must to drive away the lethargy among the voters. Linking voting with welfare schemes or securing academic certificates and even to apply for employment in the government and private sector is being suggested.

“Such measures may not stand legal scrutiny but the government can start with making it mandatory for its employees. Start making some sections accountable,” Vice Chancellor of Central University of Odisha I. Ramabrahmam says. “While reviewing the electoral columns officials should include a column seeking information as to why they have not voted and if not for what reasons.”

The professor of Political Science argues that linking voting to welfare schemes is not possible but accountability can be brought in making the exercise of electoral list review more participatory. But if the government wants to make it mandatory the process should start from the urban local bodies.

Ravinuthala Shashidhar, spokesperson of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), prefers some strict measures. Voting should be linked to welfare schemes. The effort should not be to deny them the benefits but suspending them for a couple of months. Subsidies given for doemstic gas can be stopped. Sanction of scholarships to students can also be linked to it unless they have a genuine reason.

“Rights without responsibility cannot be sought,” says Cyberabad Police Commissioner V.C. Sajjanar while suggesting strong measures. “A person who has not been responsible enough to step out of the comforts of his home to vote at least once in 5 years has no right to seek welfare schemes nor will he retain the right to question for development,” he felt, arguing that low turnout defeats the very concept of democracy.

The role of intellectuals and media is paramount apart from political parties. “Media should focus more on voting that the elections and political parties,” Mr. Ramabrahmam says. Mr. Sajjanar too agrees to the view point while arguing intellectuals should take the issue seriously and suggest measures to make the elections more participatory.

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