The issue is directly linked to influence of money power in polls: Quraishi

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has sought the help of the Press Council of India (PCI) in monitoring the media-related malpractices like “paid news” during elections as its own jurisdiction is limited to a candidate's election spending.

Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi told a press conference here on Tuesday that problems like ‘paid news' indulged in by some sections of the media “has assumed serious proportions and is more pronounced in some States.”

As far as the Commission was concerned, it was making all efforts to tighten the candidate's expenditure monitoring cell which is headed by an Income Tax Officer. This cell would work in close cooperation with the PCI to monitor practices like “paid news” which are eventually directly related to the influence of money power in the elections, he said.

Mr. Quraishi was in Goa along with Election Commissioner V.S. Sampat to chair a conference of chief electoral officers from the west zone which includes Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Goa and the Union Territories of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

He said the ECI was going ahead with a nationwide programme to increase the participation of the youth in the electoral process as it was noticed that often youth were not aware of their voting right or seemed to be disillusioned by diverse reasons and kept away from the election process.

“We want to give the youth a sense of participation in the election process. This segment is generally omitted from the voters' list because very often they are cynical about democratic processes,” he said.

“We are celebrating National Voter's Day on January 25, when the Election Commission was founded 60 years ago, one day before the country became a republic,” Mr. Quraishi said.

He said a nationwide drive would be conducted on January 25 in an attempt to induct 2 crore youngsters turning 18 that month into the electoral process. A programme covering 8.5 lakh voting booths across the country would be held on that day to distribute photo identity cards to as many as 2.5 crore eligible voters.

The ECI has so far issued 714 million voting cards across the country.

On the reliability of electronic voting machines (EVMs), Mr. Quraishi reiterated his complete faith in the EVM technology which he said had stood the test of time since it was first introduced in 1982.

He said the procedure of EVM usage was consistently reviewed and vetted — both in terms of technology and administrative controls including safety aspect — over a period of time to keep out malpractices or manipulations.

“There have been many technological improvements in the EVM machines since it was first introduced in 1982. We have elaborate procedures and a technical experts committee outside the Commission, which authorises any changes, any improvements and a lot of suggestions that are made, making our system better,” said Mr. Quraishi.

“The machines have undergone a lot of improvement and we are trying to counter, prevent or anticipate any malpractice in advance,” he said, ruling out any apprehension over the possibility of tampering with the EVMs.

Mr. Quraishi said the ECI has decided to integrate the number of the Unique Identification Card being issued to the citizens into the election photo identity card by superimposing the number of the former on to the latter.

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