EC takes children's help to increase turnout
Don't be surprised if your five-year-old child asks you to vote this time. The election commission is counting on schoolchildren to persuade their parents to vote. Besides, it will also rope in crèche workers to boost the poll percentage.
The election commission will run a special campaign targeting children, adolescents and teenagers, who will coax their parents to exercise their franchise. Under the Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) programme launched by election commission of India (ECI) the state is going to mobilise electors through various modes.
The election department is not alone in this endeavour as several other departments are also working in rural areas. The departments of education, health, social justice, panchayati raj and rural development will carry out the mobilisation campaign, which has been started soon after the announcement of the Lok Sabha polls. Taking assistance from Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), a centrally-sponsored educational campaign, the ECI will reach out to schoolchildren to mobilise them to educate voters.
Officer on special duty (OSD) for SVEEP, Neeraj Sharma said under the SSA, there are school management committees from cluster level to school level. "Through these committees we will reach out to schoolchildren. Children from 5 to 13 years will work as messengers to mobilise elders to exercise their franchise," said Sharma.
In rural areas, poll percentage was very low at some booths in the 2009 polls. Across the state, poll percentage was 58.43%, nearly 1% less than the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. "We worked on some areas and found that people are not aware about the value of their vote," Neeraj Sharma said, adding that voter identification card was merely an identity proof for some people, including the youth.
The election commission decided to come up with a strategy to educate youth and future electors. Sharma elaborated that children from 13 to 17 years were under the category of future voters and through the same campaign they would be educated about the worth of their vote. Under the same campaign, teenage electors will also be in focus. "First-time voters are an important category of electors and they will also be educated about its value," he said, adding that to educate them the EC would start an awareness campaign in colleges.
Sharma said besides schools, the ECI would also focus on panchayat meetings, anganwari centres and hospitals. "The government representatives in these institutions can work as messengers by way of encouraging people to participate in elections," he added.
In Himachal, there are 47.40 lakh total voters, including 23.9 lakh male and 22.8 female voters. Of the total, 46.74 lakh are general voters while 65,857 are service electors. There are 62,133 first-time voters in the state.
Lok Sabha poll percentage in state
Highest (1998) 65.32%
Lowest (1999) 56.78%
Average: 59.87% (in last 10 Lok Sabha elections)
Year Poll percentage