CHANDIGARH, April 3, 2008: It was an unusual experience for the University fraternity to interact with Mr. Navin B. Chawla, Election Commissioner, Govt. of India who came to deliver a Special Lecture on “Election Reforms” at P.U. Campus here today. Mr. Chawla in his lecture talked of the Micro-Management of Election Commission and its gradual improvement in every election. He informed that the Commission was planning to initiate steps in vulnerability mapping and of having mobile booths where people did not have to travel distances to cast their votes.
Talking about the magnitude of elections, Mr. Chawla informed that the selection of Observers was based on their impeccable integrity and credibility and the objective was to ensure level playing fields for fair elections irrespective of whichever party was contesting. Over 700 million electors cast their votes at 7000 polling centres where 10 million security persons and 4 million officers are deployed in General Elections. The Election Commission gets its feedback from Press, students, NGOs and initiates steps for Micro-Management of elections.
Talking about how the Election Commission functions and how it has evolved in the last three years, Mr. Chawla informed that initially the Westminster Model had been adopted. As such there are imperfections in every electoral system but soon the initial doubts were laid to rest and the political maturity of smooth take over by various governments proved that the electoral process in our country worked well.
Mr. Chawla exhorted the youth above 18 years to cast their votes in every election from their institutes to Panchayats, to national level. At present, the national average was around 58% and he called upon the youth to motivate others to participate so that the percentage of voters goes up.
Mr. Chawla informed that the experience of using electronic voting machines has stood as the test of time. This has resulted in elimination of bogus voting and booth capturing. The need for updating of electoral reforms was something which the Commission was alive to and he informed that in Karnatka they have deleted 5.2 million names and added 1.2 million. The Lecture was followed by stimulating debate. Sh. Chawla also solicited suggestions from the public, particularly the intellectuals and the youth on his e-mail.
Mr. Pradeep Mehra, Advisor to the Administrator said that election reforms could be viewed as a Development Issue as the experience of robust democracies abroad had shown that quality of those who govern improves with more awareness and economic growth. The development dimension had resulted in number of negative instances going down. He also suggested to initiate novel experiments like having electioneering in the end, election in one go in stead of phases, provision for advance voting wherever people could not come for voting because of their pre-occupations.
Mr. Mehra observed that where getting elected had become a business and parallel money was being used the possibility of state funding should be explored as was being done in the first world countries. This way the parallel money could be used for better investments.
He also advocated debates between the contestants enabling the voters to have a better choice for selecting the right candidate.
Sh. Satya Pal Jain, Fellow and Dean, Law Faculty complimented Shri Chawla for his commitments and asked him to visit the University again and again to get better feedback. He lamented the indifference and apathy of literates and intellectuals who were responsible for the overall downslide. No doubt the politicians’ credibility was lowest because of politicians themselves but the need was that society and particularly the educated class must apply its mind and show its wisdom in taking hard decisions so that better candidates are elected. He also felt that the declaration of property by contesting contestants was not enough. The Election Commission should insist on filing of details of the entire family particularly from the date the candidates start their public life. Responding to number of questions, Sh. Jain observed that definition of criminality needed to be defined in order to identify the framed from the criminals.
Earlier, Dr. R.C. Sobti, Vice-Chancellor, P.U. thanked Sh. Navin B. Chawla and Sh. Pradeep Mehra for their interest in reforms and felt that such interactions would lead to healthier future.