-UMESH SINHA, Chief Electoral Officer, Uttar Pradesh
The General Elections to the 16th Lok Sabha have just concluded and they have undoubtedly been a great success. In keeping with the highest standards set up by the Election Commission of India, not only were the elections conducted peacefully in a free and fair manner, but were also inclusive and transparent. Moreover, the enthusiasm and participation witnessed in U.P. was unmatched anywhere else in India.
The overall voting percentage in these Lok Sabha elections has been higher than ever before in the history of nation. Even in U.P., voting percentage in these elections broke all records since the first Lok Sabha elections conducted in 1951-52 (as evident from the table & chart).
The 2014 Lok Sabha General Elections witnessed 80,926,378 voters casting their vote in U.P., with a poll percentage of 58.29%. On the other hand, 55,411,593 voters had cast their ballot in the 2009 Lok Sabha General Elections; the poll percentage then was a mere 47.79%.
This shows that 25,514,785 more voters participated in 2014 elections as compared to 2009 elections, which translates to a whooping increase of 46.05% in no. of voters in U.P.
ASTOUNDING VOTER INCREASE OF 46.05%
A GRAND SUCCESS….Undoubtedly, Uttar Pradesh witnessed an inspired and aware electorate who came forward to exercise their right ‘ethically’. This positive trend has been an outcome of the innumerable measures adopted by ECI that ensured maximum participation in elections.
Thus the team led by CEO U.P. took several initiatives under SVEEP to educate and encourage voters to participate in the electoral process. Among the many activities undertaken by this office, the following are quite notable:
Taking a cue from the growing role of Social Media in our lives, this e-chain aimed at connecting people virtually on Facebook. It provided a reason for each 18+ old to take pride in being an eligible voter. The voter had to get a photo clicked holding his/ her EPIC and then upload the image on the Facebook page of CEO, UP (www.facebook/voiceofvoters) and also leave a message for voters, urging them to vote.
WEB UTILITY – 9,048,991 VIEWS IN 2 YEARS
In a bid to make it convenient for voters to track status of their names as included in the electoral roll, a web utility was offered on ceouttarpradesh.nic
.in (the website of CEO, UP). The applicant could get to know the status
of his/ her name being included in the electoral roll by merely entering some basic details in this online utility. The facilities also included online registration, knowing your BLO, searching your polling station, model code of conduct, election schedule, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) etc.
CEO website has been appreciated far and wide with 9,048,991 hits and the pages being viewed in a span of just two years (April 2012 to May 2014). Moreover, election results too were followed keenly on the website as 16th May 2014 witnessed 67,178 hits followed by 30th April 2014 (polling day for Central U.P.) with 36,287 hits on a single day.VOTER QUOTIENT (VQ)
You have heard of IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and EQ (Emotional Quotient)…now here comes VQ (Voter Quotient)!
Yet again striking a chord with voters, this online quiz was launched by CEO, U.P. office where a person gets to check his/ her Voter Quotient by answering certain questions related to the voting system. This quiz indirectly educated participants about the voting system and also encouraged them to know more about it. The quiz "Know your VQ" was made more was made available on portable kiosks, which were placed at several locations across Lucknow like malls, railway station and the airport, giving the off- line crowd a chance to know its VQ. This was quite popular as well. Interesting by giving mementos (T- shirts, caps and mugs) to the winners, ensuring enthusiastic participation. Such was the popularity that it was decided to launch "VQ on Wheels", where a mini-version of the entire VQ.QR CODES FOR VOTING DATES
Simply scan this Quick Reaction (QR) code and get a calendar reminder entry on your phone. Now, on the voting day, your phone would remind you that you need to go out and vote. For each phase of voting, one QR code was developed and circulated in accordance to different election phases in U.P. The codes were made public on the Facebook page of this office.
An Android application was developed and launched on the Facebook page of this office, from where one could download and use it to track one's application status, get details about the Booth Level Officer (BLO), polling booth location and even play Voter Quotient.MATDATA CHAUPAL
It was quite an innovative step taken by this office where eligible voters got a chance to check their respective names in the voters' list and in case their name was missing, they even got an on-the-spot chance to submit request for inclusion of their name. Launched all over U.P. on specified dates (mainly on Sunday), eachMatdata Chaupal was a huge success.
10,00,000 PLEDGE ON 10TH APRIL 2014 AT 10 AM
This was quite a popular initiative where people were collectively made to take a pledge to vote. At 10 am on 10th April, district Lucknow amassed 10,00,000 people taking the pledge to vote. Students of various Government and Private schools, institutes and colleges as well as Government and Corporate office employees and Residential Welfare Associations (RWAs) pledged to vote. Students who were giving exams too were given 5 mins extra to stand at their positions and take a pledge to vote before continuing with their exam. Though a notional act, it did put social pressure on the people, giving them an impetus to vote. LUGGAGE TAGS
In a bid to tackle urban apathy, a unique initiative was taken by CEO, U.P. office to educate the hi-flyers. Branded Luggage Tags, with relevant messaging, were put at the Lucknow airport. Air Travellers got to use the same luggage tags for their air journey, taking the basic message of "vote karenge shaan se" to various locations
across the country.
LAUNCH OF MOBILE WEBSITE
The website of CEO, UP was customised for mobile viewing to ensure that the youth could easily access our website on smartphones and know more about the voting process by using the informative website.
MODEL POLLING BOOTH
In a bid to attract voters to the polling booths and give a festive look to the electoral exercise, model polling stations were set up for the first time in the country. Besides providing basic minimum facilities like drinking water, shed, toilets, ramps at all the polling stations, model polling stations were set up to give a feeling of festivity to the election process. No-Q comfort was appreciated widely. The voter returned back home after voting with a ‘Good- feel’ about the entire election process. In Lucknow, each school with the Model Booths was conceptualised as a ‘Family Unit’ knitted with well defined interpersonal relations, regards, care, protection and an established infrastructure. The senior and junior members (Faculty Members and students, respectively) of this family offered a warm and hearty welcomed to all visitors, be it local voters, the CPMF personnel, election staff and all others. This idea was named “Home Welcome” and welcomed by the management of all the schools!
Then, a group of six Matdata Mitrs (4 boys and 2 girls ) for each Model Booth, was prepared from within the same school students and two faculty members were selected as ‘Infrastructure Managers’ (now on ‘Infra Man’), preferably vo ters in the same Polling Centre. Being from the same polling centre helped the m to vote and contribute at the same time. The Matdata Mitrs worked as the e ngine and wheels in the vehicle where Infra Mans were in driving seat. Matdat a Mitrs were entrusted with the task of handling the Voters Facilitation Counte rs, helping Female voters, Differently-Abled and Senior Citizen Voters, guiding t he voters for water & snacks and helping the Polling Centre/ Booth Medical Un it. Infra Mans were key in organising tents, chairs, scientifically placing all functi onal tables, communication systems, etc. Undoubtedly, Model Booths have created a sense of comfort, friendliness & jo y among the voters of all age groups. Kudos to this initiative!
`A la the luggage tags, books marks in attractive colours with different slogans were printed by CEO office, U.P. These were launched at a gala ceremony held at a book store and then distributed to different bookstores and vendors at railway stations and major crossings all over the city. Another novel initiative by CEO, U.P. to reach out to the intelligentsia with an appeal to vote.
VOTER AWARENESS EXPRESS
Aiming to reach out to the last voter, a novel concept was initiated for National Voter’s Day (NVD) 2014 in Uttar Pradesh. Buses christened as Voter Awareness Express were rolled out from 7 locations across the State to converge on the State Capital Lucknow by 25th January for NVD celebrations. Seven different routes were chalked out for the buses with the intent of covering entire U.P. The buses decorated with slogans on voter awareness reached the district along its route in the morning, ferried NSS volunteers and NSS coordinators of the district along with local talents and regional icons to different pre- decided venues within the district. Then, the Express moved on to the subsequent district as per the schedule.
Voter Awareness Express covered 57 districts of U.P travelling 4,200 kms of distance across the state of U.P. thereby spreading awareness in 250 educational institutions and 200 market places.
BATON RELAYA Baton Relay was organized by NSS in Lucknow University wherein a rally on awareness on elections was held with an Election Commission Baton being ferried across the city by students of different colleges. The baton was
handed from one college to
the other, even as the gathering at each college cheered for democracy. The Baton Rally witnessed the participation of 50 colleges with each college carrying the baton with hundreds of students to the next college even as they shouted slogans, sang songs on elections and even performed Nukkad Natak enroute on Matdata Jagrukta Rath.
A camel race with a message on elections was organized in district Sambhal, U.P. This initiative, a first ever, attracted large crowds cheering for the camels as also shouting slogans on voting.
VINTAGE CAR RALLY
A Vintage Car Rally was organized in district Bareilly, U.P. Vintage cars carrying messages on importance of elections moved through the old streets of the city, leaving a mark on each participant as also the spectators.
Districts all over U.P. took initiatives to spread message on elections. The stamp with date of voting was used on anything and everything possible. This included electricity bills, cylinder
slips (with an aim to reach out to thehousewives), doctor’s prescriptions, cinema hall tickets, Railway tickets, Taj Mahal tickets, ATM slips, bills of neighbourhood stores, children report cards even on the wrists of voters.
‘Bulawa tolis’ was a novel concept utilized by different districts. ‘Bulawa tolis’ comprised the Rozgar sewaks, Aaganwadi workers, ASHA workers etc of the area. On the D-day, Bulawa tolis were sent door to door to ensure each and everyone had come out to vote. The movement of Bulawa toli was being governed by the SVEEP control room where voting percentage at each polling booth was being monitored. Any reduction in voting percentage on the polling booth was conveyed to the Bulawa toli of the area, which was activated further immediately.
SHAHEED STHAMB – 20,000 COINS
A new entry into the Limca Book of Records was created in district Bulandshahr, U.P. where a ‘Shaheed Stambh’ like structure was created with
20,000 coins by Mr. Nikunj Tomar, with an aim to create awareness on elections.
MAP OF INDIA WITH LIGHTS (ECI LOGO)
A large map of INDIA spread across 195m*175m was created in Lucknow with electrified poles. SVEEP programmes were carried out inside this map with the NSS volunteers covering the map with a lighted baton. With an aim to spread awareness on elections in Lucknow, a huge map of India with length and breadth of 195×180mts, was drawn with 1809 mts fastening rope and 5607 iron-nails.
Inside this map, a huge size symbol of the Election Commission of India, with the dimensions of 120x70 m was drawn and filled with
1250 kg limestone, 70 kg saffron colour and 70 kg green colour. Also, on the edges of this king size map of India, 150 tricolour flags of India fluttered. In daytime, with its paramount dimensions and colour splash and with yellow glowing lights in evening all over the map, flags, symbol and slogans, the scenario at Jhule Lal Park became an treat to the eyes for all passers-by and the Lucknowites. People waited through the day till late evening to see the illuminated creation.
MAP OF INDIA - HUMAN CHAIN
Another entry in the Limca Book of records was created in district Bulandshahr, U.P. A map of India was created to scale 121 ft long and 118 ft wide with a
human chain. Eight hundred (800) students stood hand in hand in a 480 mts long chain along the boundaries on map of India. In the centre of the map of India, a rangoli of size 70 ft * 40 ft featuring the symbol of Election Commission of India (ECI) spread a message on elections.
Invitation cards to vote on the polling day were distributed by the District Magistrate, Shravasti. Beautiful invites were given to all the Gram Pradhans, the Principals of colleges and Heads of each institution at each level from tehsil to block to the district. The invitation cards welcomed each and everyone to come to the polling booth and cast their vote.
Discounts were offered to all people who showed their finger with the mark of voting at numerous shops, petrol pumps and restaurants. Meerut district witnessed all diagnostic centres and even jewellery shops offer discounts.
A Boat Race was organized in district Hamirpur with an aim to spread awareness on elections. The boats carrying messages on awareness on elections sped along even as spectators cheered them.
MESSAGES & RALLIES WITH A DIFFERENCE
Unheralded people too came forward by themselves with offers to spread awareness on elections. District Etawah witnessed all Dry-cleaners printing a message on polling date in the district on their bags that carried dry-cleaned clothes to the customer. Even all sweets shops got their boxes reprinted with a message on elections. Rallies by fruit vendors (Phal Vikreta Sangh) and Bhelpuri sellers in district Etawah were noteworthy. These rallies stuck a chord with common man.
VARANASI – BAJRAS
Bajras (Special boats) in district Varanasi sailed over River Ganges with a message on elections. They made an eye-catching site for the pilgrims and tourist as these election bajras sailed across all the Ghats of Varanasi.
SPECIAL INITIATIVE FOR SPECIALLY-ABLED
District Sitapur took a novel initiative for the specially- abled voters in the district. A painting competition of specially- abled was held at the district headquarters, which witnessed huge participation from all over the district. Then, a special digital diary of specially-abled voters was created. The BLO and the District Control room were in touch with them throughout the SVEEP campaigning till the poll day. They were motivated to exercise their right and it was ensured that they all vote as per their comfort.
Moreover, 3000 specially- abled persons were chosen as the Booth Ambassadors for the 3000 polling booths all over the district. They were crowned as the ‘Loktantra-doot’ and each of them was given an identity card. A grand ceremony was organized wherein all 3000 Loktantra- doot were inspired to turn into Brand Ambassadors for elections by Mr. Umesh Sinha, CEO, U.P and ensure cent percent voting in their area. These Booth Ambassadors then moved to their assigned polling booth area and encouraged each and everyone to vote.
Munadi (public announcement) all over the district on the polling date in district Pratapgarh went a long way in spreading awareness on elections.
Student volunteers were engaged as ‘Matdata Mitra’, and delegated responsibility at polling booth for the polling day. Aged between 17 to 18 years of age, these young volunteers reached the booth on the polling day and aided the polling booth officials in making arrangements, manage queue, clear doubts and provide a helping hand to the disabled and elderly. Matdata Mitra, dressed in specially designed T-shirts and caps of Matdata Mitra made a positive impact on the voters as each voter walked back home feeling special.
A wheel chair was provided at each polling booth in four districts of U.P., namely Allahabad, Varanasi, Kanpur and Lucknow under a tie-up with ALMCO. Special consideration for differently- abled has led to more inclusive election process with the differently-abled electorate too feeling empowered as well as an important part of the election process.
With an aim to increase women participation in elections, many gender friendly measures were initiated. In many districts of U.P, ‘Creches’ were created at the polling booths so as to facilitate women with small children vote comfortably.