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Kerala Kaumudi Online
Wednesday, 25 May 2022 6.15 AM IST

Changes that need to be discussed in the changed times

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The central government is in the process of enacting two bills that could bring about significant changes in the socio-political spheres. The Union Cabinet has already approved the related bills. The government is preparing to introduce the bills in the current session of Parliament, which ends on the 23rd. Consideration and passage of bills may take place later as a detailed discussion is required.

One of the important bills passed by the Union Cabinet is to raise the minimum age of marriage for women to 21. The second is about linking the voter ID with Aadhaar. Both legislations are paramount in the current scenario. Over the years, several people have raised the demand to raise the minimum age of marriage for girls. It is generally argued that the current minimum age of eighteen is not at all desirable for girls. There are several family-related and physical problems that girls may face as they get married before the end of their education. The problems that marriage at an immature age creates in the lives of girls have often become a hot topic of discussion.

The opinion is very strong that just like a man, a woman should also have a job that helps her to stand on her own feet. One can obtain at least a degree only at the age of 21. The education period of a girl who wants to continue her studies will be prolonged. After completing her studies, she will have to wait again to get a job. Most of the girls want to get married only after completing their studies and getting a job. Although there is no shortage of parents who wish to see their daughters get married by the age of eighteen, this trend is changing. Social reformers, health workers, governments and women's activists have long called for raising the minimum age for marriage of girls. The minimum age for marriage can be raised by making the necessary amendments to the existing Child Marriage Prohibition Act. Indications are that the Centre is moving in the same direction. It would be a great achievement if Parliament could provide an opportunity for meaningful discussions. As it is an inevitable law, parties are unlikely to oppose this. Those who have a timeless mindset may not come out against this reform bill. People with outdated mindsets may come out against this reform bill. However, such opposition does not matter. The new legislation will help ensure that women are given due consideration and representation in areas such as health, safety, social advancement, education and employment.

The proposed law to link voter ID with Aadhaar is related to electoral reform in the country. Now that the Aadhaar card has become universal, it can be easily linked to the voter card. The country has already acquired the technical capacity for that. As all matters related to the government are based on Aadhaar, it should not be avoided in voting either. The biggest benefit of linking voter list names with Aadhaar is that fraudulent votes can be prevented altogether. Despite several reform measures, many of the current voting-related irregularities are related to fraudulent voting. Not even the voter list can be said to be flawless. Photos were included in the voter list to avoid duplication. Even then, the irregularities could not be completely prevented. Voter card can be linked with Aadhaar in the same way PAN card was linked with Aadhaar. This will prevent impersonation in polling booths and multiple voting.

There are several other amendments that need to be made to the Representation of the People Act relating to elections. Although linking Aadhaar with voter ID can be seen as an important step in that direction, the dominance of money in elections and the many unethical tendencies associated with it persist. Although there are strict restrictions on a candidate's election expenses, they are only observed on paper. Violence during elections often becomes a major law and order issue. The election is a scene where the presence of black money is most evident despite the strong surveillance systems in place. The time has come to end the tendency for a candidate to contest in more than one constituency.

The new bill is expected to include provisions to add new names to the voter list four times a year. Procedures related to this should be further simplified. There is also a need for timely reforms in the conduct of elections.

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