As the city, known for its low voter turnout, gears for the polls to elect municipal corporators, students are taking to the digital plane to get more Mumbaiites to come out to vote.
A group of students from six colleges in the city are using a digital initiative — Vote for Mumbai — to get voters to polling stations. This group has been uploading messages and videos encouraging people to take out 15 minutes from their busy schedules and vote this time.
“In 2012, the voter turnout in Mumbai for the municipal elections was a mere 45%. This does not make a government a representative of the society. With this campaign, we aim to reach out to the other 55% and encourage them to go to polling booths this time,” said Huzaifa Khan, a student of HR College, Churchgate, one of the students.
Students from the five other colleges — Jaihind, KC and Government Law College( all in Churchgate), Swami Vivekanand College, Chembur and Mithibai College (Vile Parle) — are taking the campaign to other parts of the city. Their primary target are fellow students. “Our aim is to reach out to first-time voters, and eventually to everybody else who does not think voting is important,” he added.
The project has been incorporated into the semester assignments of students, for the Bachelor of Mass Media programme. “Most of us were interning with various digital media houses during the holidays and all we had to do was pool in our knowledge and resources, with no initial cost,” said another student.
Other student groups are trying to increase the voter turnout by taking the campaign to streets and homes. Students of RA Podar College in Matunga, recently organised a march across Matunga and Kings Circle, urging people to register for the upcoming elections. “Our students held a day-long march asking more people to register as well as cast their votes. Many youngsters also had queries about the election procedure, which our students and staff happily solved,” said Sobhana Vasudevan, principal.
Similarly, the students and management of RD National College in Bandra have been reaching out to societies in and around Bandra and Santacruz, urging people to exercise their electoral rights. “We have also approached nearby colleges to help us talk to more families before elections. We have very little time left before the city goes to poll, so more help will be needed to create mass awareness,” said Dinesh Panjwani, principal of the college.
While awareness about voting is just one part of the campaign, the focus is also on information on Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), India’s richest municipal body that manages a city with more than 12 million residents. “Complaints related to the city’s water supply have increased by 13% and the BMC has a surplus of Rs43,000 crore locked in fixed deposits. Rs130crore was spent on upgrading the BMCs IT infrastructure and the best part is all this information is available on the BMC website. We want to rebuild this connection between the society and BMC, so that people know who to ask questions about what,” added Khan.
Other than voting, the focus has been on informed voting through the digital initiative. “With many people digitally connected, we hope to reach out to a lot of people in the next few weeks,” said a student.
Use your democratic right
*Vote for Mumbai is a digital initiative started by a group of college students from six city colleges
*Students are using social media networks like Facebook and Twitter to reach out to voters from across the city and encourage them to go vote this year
*These students are also trying to connect with the BMC in order to help facilitate interactive sessions (video or chat) between voters and the electoral candidates
*The initiative uses videos using young students and talking to others, which are then shared with students from various colleges