ECI takes stand against child exploitation in elections

The ECI’s advisory, which explicitly prohibits various forms of using children during election campaigns, is not just a legal directive but a moral imperative.

| Updated: 06 February, 2024 4:59 pm IST
TNI Illustration by Sristhi Rana

The recent advisory issued by the Election Commission of India (ECI), urging political parties and candidates to refrain from using children in election campaigns, is a commendable step towards protecting the rights and dignity of the youngest members of our society. The ECI’s “zero tolerance” policy reflects a commitment to ensuring that children are shielded from the potential harms of political exploitation, and it aligns with the constitutional and legal safeguards in place for children in India.

Children, being vulnerable and impressionable, deserve to be shielded from the pressures and manipulations of electoral politics. The ECI’s advisory, which explicitly prohibits various forms of using children during election campaigns, is not just a legal directive but a moral imperative. Children should not be reduced to mere props or pawns, manipulated by politicians for votes or sympathy. They must be allowed to grow in an environment free from any form of exploitation, abuse, or discrimination based on political affiliations.

The ECI’s move is timely, given the approaching 2024 Lok Sabha elections. While this advisory mustn’t be perceived as too little too late, the effectiveness of such measures lies in the strict adherence and accountability of political parties. The ban on child exploitation and violation of child labour laws should not be treated as a mere formality but as an ethical responsibility that every political entity must uphold.

To ensure the success of this commendable move, the ECI must go beyond issuing advisories and take proactive measures to enforce compliance. Deployment of observers and officials to monitor campaigns, inviting civil society organizations and the media to report violations, and imposing severe penalties on violators are essential steps. Disqualification, cancellation of nominations, forfeiture of deposits, or criminal prosecution should be implemented rigorously to deter any party or candidate from flouting the rules.

Moreover, the ECI must leverage its authority to create awareness and sensitization among political entities and the public. Publicising the advisory and its implications should be a priority, emphasising the importance of safeguarding children from political exploitation. Education campaigns can help foster a culture of accountability, making it clear that violations will not be tolerated.

The ECI’s advisory is not just a regulatory measure; it is a reflection of the values that underpin our democratic system. Children, as future citizens and leaders, deserve to be protected from any form of exploitation. The support and cooperation of all stakeholders, including political parties, civil society, and the general public, are crucial in ensuring the effective implementation of this advisory.

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