The high turnout of voters in first six phases of general elections is being seen as maturity of Indian electorates. Both political pundits and parties are, however, defining this jump as per their own convenience, nobody seems to be recognising the efforts of those unsung individuals and organisations who worked tirelessly to generate this awareness. A young IT professional of Hyderabad, Pradip Kumar, enrolled 15,000 voters in his area through Election Commission website. Similarly, Dr Vinay Chati of Pune motivated the students of his Journalism Department to educate voters through street plays, writes Pramod Kumar
The 9 per cent growth in voters’ turnout during first six phases of general elections is being seen as democracy coming of age in our country. The seats which have gone to polls so far recorded a turnout of around 69 per cent, which is 9 per cent more than the votes polled by these constituencies in general elections held five years ago. In Goa, the turnout, at 81.74 per cent, jumped 11.23 per cent from 2007.
Naturally, the Election Commission is overwhelmed over this growth, as it also made efforts to educate the voters. The poll experts and political parties too are defining it with their own conveniences. Some are attributing it to the enthusiasm among first time voters, while the political parties are crediting it to the tireless efforts of their cadres. But none is recording the efforts of those individuals and voluntary organisations, which worked silently to educate the voters about their foremost democratic duty. Without expecting anything in return they took up initiatives and not only enrolled voters by visiting door-to-door but also ensured they cast their votes at the booth on polling day.
Pradip Kumar, an IT personnel in Hyderabad, is one such unsung hero who enrolled 15,000 voters at Miyapur, Madinaguda and Chandanagar areas of the city. He enrolled the voters through official website of Election Commission. He also coordinated with the Election Commission officials so that voter IDs of people reach them timely and without any difficulty.
“We took our own laptop and started enrolling the voters who did not have names in the rolls or voter Ids. When the response increased we started collecting voters’ details in the prescribed forms and loaded them manually from home. We started this campaign in first week of September and continuously did the registrations almost every Saturday and Sunday till the closure of online registration. Our initiative impressed some people so much that we got support from 8 housewives, who continuously supported us in typing the data into the system during the weekdays, while we used to gather the data in weekends. I also helped and encouraged the people in other areas of Hyderabad and couple of people from outside Hyderabad to organise similar camps,” says Pradip, while talking to Organiser.
“I found two reasons for taking this initiative. One, the huge time needed for registering for voter Id, and second, some people have voter Ids registered at their native places. The first reason was true earlier, but now the EC has provided option of registering online. The second reason is absolutely meaningless, as the people should vote here when they are living here for years. It is unfortunate that those who are living here since many years and also have bought flats, cars, etc. but never have a voter Id nor voted here! After analyzing this, I understood there is a real need of working on this aspect and encourage people in getting voter Ids registered,” said Pradip adding that many of his friends from NGOs like AOL, Bharat Swabhiman and ‘Lets Vote’ joined him. Now Pradip and his friends are working to ensure all voters cast their votes on April 30.
Similarly, Vinay Chati is Head, Department of Mass Communication & Journalism in Abasaheb Garware College, Pune. He and the students of his department decided to enroll the voters in electoral rolls and realise them to must vote.
“Majority of the people are seen cursing the people in power because even their minor issues are not addressed. They also find faults with the system. But when it comes to vote they think of going on picnic on polling day. Through our campaign we tried to educate them that they have no right to criticise the system if they do not have time to vote. To make them realise that voting is an important tool to change the system we worked at two fronts. Apart from enrolling about 10,000 names in the voters list, we educated them through more than 100 street plays,” says Shri Chati while talking to Organiser.
Chati’s 60 students played different roles in the street plays. “Through these plays we told the people that the only solution to get rid of price rise, terrorism, appeasement politics, weak government, etc is vote. This is the most powerful weapon in the hands of every citizen and if we do not use it now we have no right to criticise anyone,” added Chati adding that even on polling day all his volunteers ensured maximum number of voters reach the polling booth. This entire exercise was conducted under the banner of Prabodhan Manch.
Apart from all these efforts, the Sangh swayamsevaks across the country also carried out campaign for educating voters. Quietly, with no fanfare, around 15,000 swayamsevaks campaigned across Tamil Nadu on April 14 alone.
One month back they ensured the names of all eligible voters, particularly youth, figured in the electoral rolls. Such campaigns were carried out in almost all the states. Interestingly, Pradip is also a swayamsevak and Prachar Pramukh of IT Milan in Hyderabad. Sangh swayamsevaks are not normally seen in such exercises. But when it is required they are in forefront, as usual.