New Delhi, Jan 25 (ANI): The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, on Monday said that the Election Commission of India (ECI) is one of the pillars of Indian democracy that has in the past 60 years acquitted itself well in the onerous task of conducting elections to Parliament and the State Legislatures.
Addressing the inaugural ceremony of the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations of the ECI, Dr Singh said, "I am very happy to participate in this inaugural function of the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations of the Election Commission of India. I join all present here in felicitating the Commission on this historic occasion."
Dr Singh further said, "The insistence on universal adult franchise was a tremendous act of faith on the part of the founding fathers of our Republic. To many it looked totally impracticable in an under-developed country of our size, with low levels of literacy and divisions of caste and creed."
Dr Singh said, "The Election Commission was given the task of converting this aspiration into a reality in which every adult Indian, irrespective of caste, creed, gender, income or location would get an opportunity to cast his or her vote."
"This was undoubtedly a gigantic task, right from enumerating voters to locating polling booths at easily accessible places and ensuring secrecy and security of the ballot paper. The sheer number of voters and the logistical challenges on account of distances and accessibility were truly huge," he added.
Further applauding the Commission, Dr Singh said, "It goes to the Commission's credit that despite these enormous difficulties the whole world perceives elections in India as being fair and free."
Dr Singh said, "The Election Commission has also been quick in keeping itself abreast of technological changes and in introducing improvements in the electoral process. Electoral rolls are not printed any more; they are computerized."
"A large proportion of our voters have voter identity cards, proceedings in sensitive polling booths are video-graphed, political parties have free time on national television. Ballot papers and ballot boxes have been replaced by electronic voting machines. Results now get declared in one day," he added.
Complimenting the Commission, Dr Singh said, "These improvements have contributed not only to the speedy conduct of elections but also to enhancing the transparency and credibility of the whole electoral process."
Dr Singh said, "While we applaud the achievements of the Election Commission, and indeed Indian democracy, we would do well to ponder on some of the challenges that still lie ahead. There is a genuine concern that politics in our country is not attracting the best and the brightest among our people."
"It is also a matter of concern that educated professionals and the growing middleclass often shy away from the participation in the electoral process. Many of them are not even willing to take the trouble to cast their vote," he added.
Praising the efforts of the Commission, Dr Singh said, "The Election Commission has considered some of these problems and given its recommendations. The Standing Committee of our Parliament is also seized of many of these issues."
Dr Singh later thanked the Commission for its endeavors to serve the nation with commitment and honour. (ANI)