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    1. 1

      WHEN STUDENTS SHOW THE WAY: A SUCCESS STORY OF ELECTORAL EDUCATION PROGRAMMES AMONG TRIBES IN KERALA

      WHEN STUDENTS SHOW THE WAY: A SUCCESS STORY OF ELECTORAL EDUCATION PROGRAMMES AMONG TRIBES IN KERALA Biju Lekshmanan, Sathyan T., Dileep P.Chandran  The inhabitants of remote tribal hamlets in Attappadi experienced several physical and social constraints to turn out to vote. The community intervention programmes led by the school students of the Electoral Literacy Club (ELC) in collaboration with Students Police Cadets (SPCs) resulted in a surge in voter turnout in these areas in the elections to the 2019 Lok Sabha and 2021 Kerala Legislative Assembly. It was the participatory electoral education activities of the students that helped ensure the participation of tribes in the electoral process.  The Attappadi model redefined the functional scope of ELCs. The successful engagement of Student Police Cadets (SPCs) in electoral education campaigns in Attappadi also drove authorities of SPCs to broaden their functional scope to include electoral awareness programmes for target groups. Activities of the ELC and SPCs in the Attappadi model showcased the critical role students can play in community intervention programmes.   The students members of ELC and SPC in Government Higher Secondary School, Agali, in Attappadi jointly conducted elctoral awareness programs in the tribal hamlets of remote ares in Attappadi to address the problem of voter turnout. Together, these two student clubs, along with Election Commission, Police personnel, Departments of Forest, Education and Tribal Welfare, and the Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) at school, conducted electoral awareness classes in each tribal hamlet. During their holidays and stay-back after school, students taught tribes why they must vote and even taught them how to do it! The activities of the students were not confined to structured electoral awareness campaigns. Regular messages on the importance of electoral participation were imparted through the large school assembly of Agali Higher Secondary School where around 60% among 2,600 students belong to the category of Scheduled Tribes. These students were urged to spread the same message to their parents. The ELC members also assisted people in registering in the electoral roll. They sent messages in multiple tribal languages to the young people in tribal hamlets and taught them how to register their vote. Students also created a video message of veteran singer Nanji Amma from the community to educate tribes on the importance of casting their vote. Students of ELC and SPC carried posters and notices to the remotest tribal hamlets in Attappadi and explained the content to tribes in their tribal languages. They also ideated on new ways to communicate the messages to electors during the pandemic period–for instance, pictorial messages on electoral participation were circulated even through printed masks.  Members of ELC and SPC identified senior citizens and Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) from tribal hamlets and helped them to utilize the new facility of postal ballot. They also ensured their assistance to those who wished to vote directly on the polling day.  Additionally, through the Young India campaign, ELC and SPC members taught young electors in the tribal hamlets to use mobile applications of the Election Commission like cVIGIL and the Booth App. Young people were also taught to utilize online services available on the National Voters Service Portal. A help desk for young people was also opened in the school. A football competition conducted by the district administration also attracted the attention of young people to their political socialization initiatives. Students used all means possible to educate people on the importance of participating in elections. They even requested priests to appeal to people to cast their vote. This earned good results in Mele Mulli and Keezhe Mulli, tribal hamlets on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border.  Students of ELC and SPC continued their efforts to increase political participation on polling day. They assisted people from remote tribal hamlets to cast their votes democratically without fear or favour. They helped tribal people, senior citizens and PwDs to commute and vote and arranged transportation facilities to all tribal hamlets inside the forest. They also arranged wheelchairs and ambulances for those who needed them, and set up a help desk for them. Further, at the polling booths, they assisted the Election Commission in offering refreshments to voters from the remote areas and helped voters to follow Covid protocols on polling day.  (Student police cadets assisting a physically challenged voter to arrive polling booth) One of the attractions of SPC is its khaki-coloured uniform similar to a police officer. The activities of ELC in tribal hamlets were carried out in SPC uniforms. Even their Political Science teacher Sathyan who was in charge of both SPC and ELC at the school accompanied the students in uniforms. Voter education programmes carried out by their own children in uniforms, with support from police officers and district authorities, created a sense of privilege in the minds of the inhabitants of tribal hamlets in Attappadi. Electors in the tribal hamlets could not reject the emotional appeal of their children to participate in electoral process. The students also ensured the cooperation of the tribal chiefs of each tribal hamlet in the electoral education programmes. The commands of tribal chiefs in favour of electoral participation also moved people to vote. Another important factor for the success of the Attappadi model was language. Electoral education classes in each hamlet were led by the ELC member from the same hamlet in their respective tribal language. Teachers who know native languages also helped students to lead classes. The classes in tribal languages converted inhabitants of tribal hamlets from passive recipients to active participants. People started to clarify doubts and asked students to repeat instructions they could not understand in these classes and voice messages through social media to young electors were also in their tribal languages.  The success of Attappadi model emanated from its participatory nature. It teaches policy makers that any inititaive seeking the participation of people should be sensitive to their cultural, political, social and economic needs.  ELC and SPC groups also showed swiftness in responding to situations. During the 2019 Lok Sabha election, electors in Murugala did not turn out to vote till afternoon. The team led by ELC nodal officer Sathyan went to their hamlet and brought them to the booth by crossing the Bhavani River by foot! Another significant impact of the intervention for electoral participation was from Thadikkundu hamlet. Electors in this hamlet had decided to boycott the Lok Sabha election in 2019, but members of ELC and SPC persuaded and convinced them to vote. As a result, 98% of the electors from Thadikkundu turned out to vote in that election.  Continuous initiatives, activities and electoral education programmes of ELC and SPC in Attappadi significantly increased voter turnout in the elections to the 2019 Lok Sabha and the 2021 Kerala Assembly. A significant 14% increase happened to mark the highest ever voter turnout (73.08%) in the 2019 Lok Sabha election as compared to previous elections at the Chindakki booth where tribal electors were in a majority. The ELC and SPC campaign for mandatory registration to the electoral roll resulted in the increase in the number voters among tribes.  Voter turnout crossed 80% in all tribal hamlets in Attappadi where electoral socialization programs were conducted by ELC and SPC. The success of the electoral education programmes in 2019 encouraged students to expand the scope of their activities into tribal hamlets of three panchayaths during the election to the Kerala Legislative Assembly in 2021. Tribal hamlets of Varkamabadi, Vellakulam, Vechypathy, Nallasinka, and Chavadiyur in Sholayur panchayat on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border responded positively to the activities of the young brigade. Students also visited a number of tribal hamlets in Agali and Pudur panchayats such as Kottamedu, Narassimukku, Pattimalam, Chalyur, Elachivazhi, Cheerakadav, and Padavaya where more than eighty percent electors turned out to vote in all tribal hamlets.  Vote vandi: a SVEEP initiative to introduce EVM touring in tribal hamlets of Attappadi Story-33 A SUCCESS STORY OF ELECTORAL EDUCATION PROGRAM AMONG TRIBES (1).pdf
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      RUPA AND THE MAGIC OF ELCs- A MODERN FAIRY TALE FROM TELANGANA

      RUPA AND THE MAGIC OF ELCs- A MODERN FAIRY TALE FROM TELANGANA Rupa lives in a small village called Adilabad in Telangana, in a remote area, far away from town. Yet it has a good government school in which Rupa is studying in class X. She is a bright, active student and is very interested in her studies and extracurricular activities.  One day while she was preparing for her examinations, the electricity failed and the village was plunged into darkness. She heaved a sigh of resignation. This was a regular feature in the village. Electricity failures were frequent and, in addition to this, there was a lack of essential supplies to the village. Rupa, keenly aware of these shortcomings in her village, was often upset by them. One day, she asked her mother, Amma, why is our village like this? Why is there no regular supply of electricity, no ration supplies and those people who bully everyone, why are they not taken to task?  The mother looked sadly at Rupa and said, “Listen, child, the blame lies with us ourselves. We elected the wrong person this time. It is the fault of people like your father, who got lured and misled by the liquor and ELCS are run according to the guidelines and directives money distributed by the candidates and voted for them. Such a mistake! And now we are all suffering due to wrong voting decisions.” Rupa thought for a minute and glanced at her Mother, who looked quite unhappy. She said, 'Amma, you never had Voter Education and Electoral Literacy Clubs or ELCS during your childhood.’ ‘What is an ELC?’ asked Rupa’s mother. Rupa explained, ‘An ELC is a Electoral Literacy Club. So. just like “literacy” classes teach you how to read and write, this club helps you to learn how to understand the fair voting process and make a correct decision about voting. Amma, in these ELC meetings we are taught how to enroll and register as voters and to cast our vote in an honest and responsible way, and choose the right and deserving leader.’ The mother looked at her daughter in wonder. ‘This is a really good way to teach people the right way to vote. How lucky you are! I wish we had such ELCS during our childhood. But then, as you know, I never went to school when I was your age.’ Rupa smiled confidently. She said, ‘Amma, there is no need to feel you missed out on it all. You can even now learn all about voting and how to make the right decision- right here at the Chunav Pathshala in our village. You can become a member of the Chunav Pathshala set up at our polling station and learn all about ethical voting through interesting activities, games and films. It's even better than going to everyday school'  Amma cheered up hearing her daughter's words.  "Really? she exclaimed. ‘I will become a member of Chunav Pathshala tomorrow itself. And not only that, I will encourage all my friends in our village to become members, too.’ Rupa gave her mother a tight hug. Literate or not, Rupa's mother was always a bright spark, ready to better herself. No wonder Rupa had taken after her.  As promised, her mother became a member of the Chunav Pathshala and also helped many others in the village to become members. Soon, the village was well acquainted with the electoral process and the rules of voting.  Rupa is now soon to become a proud voter of India on completing 18 years. She recollects the day when she motivated her mother and started the process of voter awareness right in her own home. Thanks to the Electoral Literacy Club at her school she is well informed about elections and voting. Her mother, who also has social welfare and progress at heart, motivated several villagers to enroll in the Chunav Pathshala. Now the village is not ignorant about voting any more.  She is an aware future voter of India and knows that there are 9,376 ELCS in Telangana State now. These ELCs are run according to the guidelines and directives laid down by the Election Commission of India.  This was just one small step taken by a young girl to create awareness. It was a step towards a change which had the power to motivate a hundred footsteps in the right direction - to vote ethically; to vote responsibly as citizens of India. Finally, it upholds the democratic pledge that the right decision in casting the vote always leads to achievement of the desired change in society.  - (Published in My Voter Matters, Jan 2021) Story-32 Rupa and the Magic of ELCS A Modern Fairy Tale from Telangana.pdf
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      ABILITY EXPRESS – EMPOWERING VOTERS WITH DISABILITIES

      ABILITY EXPRESS – EMPOWERING VOTERS WITH DISABILITIES The human spirit is one of ability, perseverance and courage that no disability can take away. It has always been the endeavour of the Election Commission of India to facilitate ease of access to all voters to ensure holistic participation of all in the festival of democracy that is the Great Indian Election.  Assured Minimum Facilities at polling stations, volunteers for aid and assistance, provision of ramp and wheelchair, transport to and from the booth, sign language interpreters and Braille EVMs are just some of the initiatives of the Commission to abide by its motto of ‘No Voter to be Left Behind’.  Buoyed by the dedicated efforts of the Commission, the South 24 Parganas District Administration in West Bengal undertook a unique initiative to empower Persons with Disabilities through five specially designed vehicles called ‘Ability Express’.   Developed in due consultation with disability experts, the vehicles were designed in such manner so that electors with any type of disability could experience the process of voting virtually and get inspired to participate in the electoral process of the largest democracy of the world.  After flag off on 6th March 2021 by the District Election Officer & District Magistrate, South 24 Parganas in the presence of the especially abled icons of the district - one Ability Express was allotted for each of the five Sub-Divisions of the district namely Alipore Sadar, Diamond Harbour, Kakdwip, Baruipur and Canning for movement as per the comprehensive date and area wise calendar prepared. Prior to this, mapping of PwD voters by the local Booth Level Officers and Anganwadi Workers helped ascertain the number of PwD voters in the district and the route of the five vehicles was charted accordingly.   With an audio-visual system for step-by-step demonstration of the process of voting, instructions in Braille on the wall panels of the vehicle, wheelchair and ramp for electors with locomotor and neurological disorders and sign language interpreters for hearing and speech impaired electors – concerted efforts were made to make this initiative accessible to voters with all kinds of disabilities.  After settling up at an earmarked spot at a pre-scheduled time, especially abled electors were guided into the Ability Express to stand at marked spots and press the buzzer placed at the wall of the vehicle fixed against each such spot. After pressing each of the buzzers, the electors got the unique opportunity to experience the process of entering into the polling station maintaining COVID protocols and the entire polling process. As they moved along from the First, Second and Third Polling Officer to the Voting Compartment, the Presiding Officer virtually explained the important rules to be followed inside the polling station, especially maintaining the secrecy of voting. In addition to this, the Ability Express also had a Special Ability coordinator cum demonstrator and Quiz Master for necessary guidance and support to all especially abled electors to make them aware of various important facilities. The Ability Express also had the provision of web-based services such as the NVSP portal, using the Voter Helpline App, generating e-EPIC and more right on the spot. Empowering PwD electors by acknowledging their ability instead of their disability was widely appreciated and this initiative went a long way in boosting the confidence of PwD electors ahead of the polls. With the presence of District SVEEP Icons and District Especially Abled Icons, the five Ability Express vehicles covered more than 12,000 KMs and connected about 85,000 especially abled electors from the remotest areas of all of the 31 (thirty-one) Assembly Constituencies of South 24 Parganas District. -Inputs from CEO West Bengal  Story-34 Success Story _Ability Express_South 24 Parganas (1).pdf
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      POSTAL BALLOT FACILITY: INCLUSIVE ELECTIONS

      POSTAL BALLOT FACILITY: INCLUSIVE ELECTIONS Where there is a will, there is a way – and when voters cannot physically reach the Polling Station, the Polling Station will reach out to them! From enrollment to election, the Election Commission of India leaves no stone unturned in ensuring that no voter is left behind. It is in the pursuit of this endeavour that the facility of Postal Ballot was extended to PwD electors, senior citizens above the age of 80 years, officers on essential election duty as notified by the Commission and COVID-19 positive patients. 22-Kalimpong, situated at a height of more than 1,200 metres above sea level in the eastern Himalayas is the only Assembly Constituency of the smallest District of Darjeeling, West Bengal. It is the determination of our polling officers buoyed by the commitment of the Election Commission of India that voters from this hilly district were reached out to despite the many hurdles of extreme climatic conditions and inaccessible terrain. 106-year-old Pavitra Pradhan from Part No.86 in the Municipal area of Kalimpong AC and 82-year-old Bhuddiman Mukhia of Nokdara village who availed this facility for the first time were excited to provide a heartwarming welcome to the entire polling team. The family of 31-year-old Jivan Roy from the Lower Beong village of Gidabling Gram Panchayat witnessed the joy of their son voting for the first time despite his locomotor disability. The polling officials even reached out to the hidden hamlet Mansintar in a remote corner at the border of Bhutan - truly, no voter was left behind.  With the announcement of the Postal Ballot facility, 45% of the flagged voters i.e 2400 electors applied for access to cast their votes by Postal Ballot. ECI was fully geared to fulfill the commitment to make the voting process easy, accessible, inclusive, safe and free & fair for all. Majority of the population of this area consists of various tribal and non-tribal groups like Lepcha, Bhutia, Tamang, Limbu, Sherpa, Dukpa, Yolmo, Mech, Santal, Sarki, Damai, Kami, Rai, Magar, Chettri, Gurung and others with Nepali as the lingua franca of the region.  Considering the hilly terrain and hidden hamlets in the slopes, meticulous planning was done to cover each and every absentee voter within the stipulated time. The Polling Party comprising of two Polling Officers, Videographer, Micro Observer and half section of CAPF apart from State Police, started their journey on 5th April, 12 days ahead of poll. There was a well managed Distribution Centre at the District Treasury where Postal Ballots were split and handed over to the Polling Teams in the early morning under tight security. 51 such polling parties were on the field, travelling by car and even by foot to reach the voters! The polling officials reaffirmed the faith of voters in democracy as they recorded the postal ballot votes. The success of any democratic process of election rests upon the sheer strong faith of electors in the democracy accompanied by the sheer grit and determination of election officials. Absentee voters were appreciative of the Postal Ballot facility given by the Election Commission in view of the pandemic. Undoubtedly, it has improved the total voter turnout percentage while ensuring that elections were accessible and inclusive for all.   -Inputs from CEO West Bengal 
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      Covering the Last Mile in Lok Sabha Election 2019

      Democracy, disciplined and enlightened is the finest thing in the world – Mahatma Gandhi   Nine years of field experience of the voter education programme, with acronym SVEEP, served as the ground work as we started the preparations for Lok Sabha Election 2019 – World’s largest election, be it the of size of electorate, the expanse, the variation in geographical terrain, the cultural diversity or the diversity of language. To give a sense of scale of LS election 2019, its electorate stands at a mammoth 900 million, which constitutes around 69.2% of the Indian population, it covers the entire length and breadth of this vast country with area of 3.287 mn sq km. The Electoral Roll is prepared in 16 languages. On one hand we have the highest Polling station is Tashigang, situated at a height of 15,216 feet above sea level in Lahaul & Spiti, Himachal Pradesh while on the other there is the Dugong Creek Polling Station in Andaman & Nicobar Islands. While a Polling station is set up for upto 1200 electors in a rural area, Polling Station is also set up for a single voter in Gir National Park, Banej, Gujarat. Reaching out to the last voter itself is a challenge, but the bigger challenge is providing the last voter with the requisite information so as to enable him/her to make an informed decision. SVEEP is all about Information, Motivation and Facilitation and voter awareness, is not extended just to the current electorate of 900 million, but also to the prospective Voters. Electoral Literacy Club project covers populace between 14-17 years old in Schools through ELC-Schools and those outside formal education system, through Chunav Pathshala. Between LSE 2014 and LSE 2019, there were elections to the Assemblies of 27 States including the National Capital Territory of Delhi. These were periods of learning in all aspects of Election Management and particularly for SVEEP which had evolved as a programme only since 2010. Between the two national elections two landmark interventions were directed by the Commission. One was ‘Mainstreaming of Electoral Literacy through curricular and extra-curricular interventions’ and the second was ‘Accessible Elections’.   Mainstreaming Electoral Literacy-ELC Project As per the observations, lowest Electoral participation is seen among the youth, particularly those in the age bracket of 18 to19 years, which is their first year of being eligible to apply for registration. Information gap among this segment is a major factor along with the lack of motivation factor as they are busier in choosing their career path and electoral participation is least of their concerns. Hence, the National Voters’ Day was dedicated to motivating these newly eligible voters. After 5 years of discrete efforts at targeting the youth through various means, it was decided to evolve a more focussed, comprehensive approach, wherein the outreach would not be confined to election period or National Voter’s Day, but it will be a continuous process and aiming at wholesome electoral education vis-a-vis voter awareness. The Commission sought some interventions in school curricula from the Ministry of HRD in 2015. Expecting any curricular revision to take time, parallely Commission directed for developing extra-curricular interventions for prospective or future voters. Target age-group was 14-17 years, so that when they are eligible to become electors, they would be aware of the process of elections and also about the values of electoral democracy. The Electoral Literacy club project was thus conceptualised and by was launched on the 25th of January 2018 across the country. ELCs in schools and higher educational institutions, Chunav Pathshala in communities for those outside the formal education system was rolled out. Resources were developed on the principle of ‘learning by doing’ and activities were developed. Ahead of the Lok Sabha Election 2019, Commission directed for complete roll out of Chunav Pathshala at each booth. The aim being “Voter Education”, the concept is much different from the activities done for awareness. The activities are aims at detailed and longer engagement with citizens to their informed and sustained electoral participation.  The activities are kept simple to enable any volunteer to coordinate the same with the help of resource books. Voter Awareness Forums have been set up in Organisations and Departments to cater to the organised workforce. ELCs shall give rich dividends in years to come if they are nurtured in the same manner in which they have been conceptualised.   Making Elections Accessible While provisions always existed in the Law, Conduct of Election Rules and various orders issued by Commission from time to time to facilitate Persons with Disabilities to exercise their franchise, detailed guidelines were for the first time issued in 2016 just preceding the enacting of ‘The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.’ Accessible Elections’ was adopted as the theme for National Voters’ Day 2018 and the focus of the year 2018 was towards making elections as accessible as possible for all.   Consultations with stakeholders were held at District and later at State level. The National Consultation was a culmination of the consultations and had inputs from Political Parties, Stakeholders, CSOs and States.Based on the findings a comprehensive Action Plan was evolved for the Lok Sabha elections. The interventions included introduction of Braille EPIC, transport facility for PwD who need them, making voter awareness material and websites accessible besides utilizing technology to facilitate PwD voters.While there have been some remarkable steps taken at ground level by certain districts, in other places lots of challenges were faced. As the polling stations are already standing government buildings, many of them have accessibility issues. Making them completely accessible remains a challenge. Then there are issues of providing smooth access from the road upto the polling station. A solution was found in form of Volunteers to fill in any gap in infrastructure. While the endeavour is to provide a barrier free environment for Voters with disabilities to exercise their franchise, wherever these barriers are not surmountable immediately, help is provided to help them overcome the barrier. Then there are issues regarding resource management. For example, while buying wheel chairs to provide facility at each polling station for elections, its utilization post elections has to be thought of. In some earlier cases, wheel chairs were procured ahead of elections by the election office and later given to either institutes for PwDs or to individual PwDs, as storage and maintenance till next elections was not possible. A more efficient way was found in recent elections , where some districts asked Panchayats to buy a wheel chair from their funds, and later use it in Panchayat Bhawan to facilitate PwD and senior citizens. Sensitization of polling and security personnel was flagged in preparations for National elections, as a major intervention and a simple session on sign language itself gave officials insights into the invisible challenges faced by the deaf community. Ahead of LSE 2019, Commission has issued strict directions on accessibility and also appointed Accessibility Observers. With the stakeholders too taken into confidence, there would be detailed information available with us post the elections on what can be further improved.   National Media Campaign For the first time, a comprehensive national media campaign has been taken up. Broadly all major topics were covered and after discussions and deliberation the theme of ‘celebration’ or ‘Mahatyohar’ was chosen. Based on past years’ experience including the KAP survey, messages were created around the 12 identified topics. A separate campaign targeting Persons with Disabilities was also planned to be disseminated in accessible format to cover all disabilities. National campaign aimed at supplementing the campaign by CEOs and DEOs. Some states translated the national campaign content in regional language and disseminated, while many others developed their own campaign content more relevant to the audience. The national campaign is being run on national television channels besides Cinemas, besides on public broadcaster All India Radio and Doordarshan.   Social Media ECI forayed into social media in 2016, specifically for voter education. The experiment was slowly scaled up and in January 2018, ECI formally launched its official Facebook Page.  A dedicated Twitter handle of the spokesperson to give updates to media already existed but otherwise there was no other presence on any other social media platforms. Ahead of Lok Sabha Election, the Commission decided to launch the Twitter handle and Instagram page specifically for voter education and outreach.   Essential components The essential components of the SVEEP program remain the same. Built around the principle of Information, Motivation and Facilitation, every possible connect with voters is utilized to give them information and to motivate them to vote. Facilitation is extended in every possible manner to make the process accessible and pleasant. EVM/VVPAT familiarization remains a major focus with the machines taken up through Vans for demonstration and hands on experience to cover all hamlets, booths and villages, besides colleges and organizations. While Booth Level Officer is the last and the most vital connect of ECI at the Booth Level, both in rural and urban areas, it is the other government field level workers like ASHA, Aanganwadi worker, Preraks of National Literacy Mission, who remain the most effective partner in our connect with the people in villages. Civil Society and NGOs help ECI in reaching out to the niche audience. Volunteers from organizations like NCC, NYKS, NSS, Bharat Scouts & Guides help facilitate voters on poll day and also help election officials in voter awareness. Mobilisation activities close to poll day help amplify the message and multiply the reach. These are high visibility events like runs, human chains, competitions, rallies etc and are widely covered in media and help raise interest and awareness. Celebrities are taken as Election Ambassadors and Icons to reach out to a wider audience. They have played an important role in motivating the people to associate with the electoral process.  
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      Women Outreach in Chatra

      Chatra district of Jharkhand has total population 676780 Electors under Assembly Constituency of 27-Chatra and 26-Simaria with 3,57,962 as Male and 3,18,818 as Female. Whereas electors under Chatra and Simaria is 4,29,973 with 2,13,940 as male and 2,16,033 as Female which is   50.24%. As per Census 2011 out of total population, 6% people lives in Urban areas while 94% lives in the Rural areas. The average literacy rate in urban areas is 80.9% while that in rural areas is 58.8%. Sex Ratio of Urban areas in Chatra district is 867 while that of Rural areas is 959. Referring to previous general elections 2014's Voters turn out at 54.32%, and 95% of population residing in rural pocket as per DCHB 2011 data and significant females too, hence District SVEEP team planned for intervention with women voters within rural pockets too, relying on presence of field teams of JSLPS [Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society under the aegis of Rural Development Department, Government of Jharkhand] to reach out the rural communities especially women to talk about their active electoral participation. Women’s self-help groups (SHGs) have been engaged as agents of social, political, and economic empowerment as well as a platform for transformation in many parts of the country. SHGs are “membership-based community institutions” whose members with mutual support attempts to transform every individual living under National Rural Livelihood Mission. Chatra JSLPS  is currently engaged with more than 75000 women in this district under this intervention, thus a wonderful platform at rural pocket. Each SHG comprises of 10–20 women from similar socio-economic backgrounds who live in the neighbourhood, meet regularly and save small amounts of money in a common account. Capitalizing on the quantum of SHG members, District SVEEP team decided to facilitate a medium for communication channel among  rural women. Women SHGs in the district, as standard practices conduct regular interactions for thrift and saving followed with discussion on local issues of their concerns from the neighbourhood among the members to benefit in creation of space for better living. This experience of being in a group and interacting with other women boost women’s self-confidence and their active participation in community processes. Presence of SHGs and their organizational capacities inspired District SVEEP Team to leverage for wider outreach of information on electoral literacy and active participation from all rural household. District JSLPS [Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society under the aegis of Rural Development Department, Government of Jharkhand] team played a pivotal role in harnessing the social capital with the engagement of Women SHG members for electoral participation. Training program were planned for community cadre at block level and supplemented with booklets and pamphlets on electoral process as a tool for reference. Post to the capacity building exercise, the community cadres initiated sensitization sessions with members of SHGs during their weekly meetings targeting to reachout their entire villages under the Block in months time. The community cadres started disseminating information on electoral process during weekly SHG meetings, Village Organization meetings and Cluster Level Federation meetings and concluded with a pledge to facilitate similar process with their neighbourhood  women  and family members. Special camps were organized for electoral list rectification and modification with information within these women SHG meetings for maximum outreach in coordination with respective BLOs [Booth Level Officer] in village as no voter been left behind.   Audio and video means were adopted by local Block level JSLPS Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society under the ageis of Rural Development Department, Government of Jharkhand team for information dissemination. There were villages with limited access to motorable road and reachable only by motorbikes, JSLPS community cadres and field staff organized meetings  with video clippings through small pico projectors and on Laptops. Apart from these, members of SHGs and their federation also helped in organizing events at village level and pasting election related posters at public places and raised slogans during their brief transact walk with billboards with messages of ethical voting as provided by district SVEEP teams. District Programme Manager- NRLM, facilitated planning meeting with all Block Programme Managers of 12- Blocks for conducting SVEEP activities across 154 Panchayat with members of SHGs on daily basis for wider outreach. To initiate this process, 01-day orientation session was held with all Block In-charges of JSLPS about SVEEP and its different component along with the formulation of key processes involved especially the usage of VVPAT machine. District JSLPS team played a vital role in implanting theses strategy for SHGS members through a planned training program for each and every cadre at block level and provided them needed booklets and pamphlets as a ready reference. After their training, the Block teams started working in their respective villages facilitating weekly SHG meetings, Village Organization meetings and Cluster Level  Federation meeting. As implementation plan, Team JSLPS planned for trickle down process for dissemination of the key messages for electoral participation under SVEEP through its block team.   As a common approach across all the 12 blocks, district JSLPS team designed a set of common messages to be part of their sensitization meetings with women as, ·         All eligible voters above 18 years must cast their vote along with the responsibility of mobilizing the other persons in their neighborhood, ·         Ensure names of all eligible voter in the electoral list of their respective booth- if not found, to contact the respective BLOs for enrollment support along with the needed forms for submission or any form of addition, modifications/ correction needed, ·         Disseminate the usage of VVPAT [Voters Verifiable Paper Audit Trail] machine, a new initiative of ECI during the general election 2019, with the help of available posters as provided by ECI [Election Commission of India] and on its functioning as display of paper slips of casted votes within the secret chamber for 07 seconds and ·         Mention the list of IDs cards permissible as mentioned by ECI to be carried on poll day by eligible voters in case of non availability of EPIC/ voters cards. During the process, discussions were also held on for free and fair election process and reporting of unfair incidents through cVIGIL applications available for download from Play store of android phones through Photos and Videos with a turnaround time of 100 minutes for redressal. JSLPS Block teams facilitated events of community meeting at village level, rally for mass mobilization with election related messages on billboards within their hamlet area, facilitated sandhya chaupal at prominent places within the villages, display of election awareness poster at prominent public sites-government buildings, video shows on laptop by CC [Community Coordinator of JSLPS] for face to face interaction within their neighborhood for mass mobilization for active electoral participation.   SHGs have effective coordinated structure well connected with members across the entire district of Chatra. It was a wonderful experience working them and learn on the means of message dissemination to the last pocket of rural communities effectively. These women are true champions and responsible citizens in many ways, as District Chatra experienced tremendous increase in women Voter's turnout than men in the Lok Sabha General Election 2019 and registered a significant growth from the previous General Election of 2014.  
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      Mr. Jasbir Jassi and Dr. Niru Kumar partner with ECI as National Icons

      The Election Commission of India is delighted to announce that two great achievers in their respective fields have agreed to partner with the Commission, as National Icons - Mr. Jasbir Jassi and Dr. Niru Kumar.     
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      #Go Assist – Unleashing the Power of Poll Volunteers for Accessible Elections

      #Go Assist – Matdata Mitras in the Abode of the Clouds, empowering the youth powering the nation – Unleashing the Power of Poll Volunteers for Accessible Elections -By F R Kharkongor, CEO Meghalaya   Matdata denotes an individual’s inalienable right to vote, and Mitra means friend. In Meghalaya this time, with the objective of ensuring that, “No Voter should truly be left behind” over and above other measures and initiatives, undertaken, hundreds of young and future voters were effectively mobilized as Election friends or Matdata Mitras, in the just concluded Lok Sabha Elections 2019, covering both the Shillong Parliamentary and Tura Parliamentary seats, spread over 3167 Polling Stations, across 60 Assembly Constituencies. Anchored on the firm belief, that it is critical to meaningfully engage the hearts and minds of impressionable young and future voters, a much larger dividend accrues from ensuring that, it is only by actually empowering the youth, that one can also tangibly power the nation. With this end in mind, to ensure the fulfilment of the 3E’s of Engage, Empower and Express, the initiative to involve, train and deploy the Matdata Mitras, became an article of faith for Meghalaya in the recently concluded LS 2019, in the context of Inclusive and Accessible Elections. The journey commenced a few months prior, to Lok Sabha Elections 2019, when the ECI sought specific inputs from the state, for developing suitable guidelines on the functioning of Poll Volunteers, which envisaged an enlargement and deepening of their role for LS 2019. Accordingly, building on the basic premise that “No voter should be left behind”, the role of the Poll Volunteer was gradually crafted and fashioned, aimed at meeting the objectives of inclusive and accessible elections. This initiative was gradually institutionalized by the ECI, as part of its general guidelines to achieve Assured Minimum Facilities (AMFs) in its entirety in a Polling Station, which act as a corner stone of electoral democracy. Through these assorted measures, the Poll Volunteer acquired a new centrality, on being listed as a mandatory AMF requirement, in Polling Stations, galvanizing Poll Volunteers to extend prompt and visible assistance for the broad swathe of voters, covering the hitherto marginalized and left out categories of People With Disabilities (PWD), the aged and infirmed. While making a Polling Station completely accessible, continues to be a challenge in hilly terrains like Meghalaya, faced with multiple difficulties, in ensuring smooth access for voters from road to Polling Stations due to rugged terrain. Also, in scenarios where ramps exist in Polling Stations perched on precarious hill tops, Poll Volunteers emerged as the ideal solution to surmounting these logistic and geographical barriers, with their ready presence, acting as a robust bridge and support to the aged and infirmed, ultimately making access of the marginalized to Polling Stations, both a doable and an achievable exercise. Preparations towards this end, started in right earnest, as the support of all key stakeholders was readily enlisted, drawing on members of leading Youth Organisations of the state, such as MBSG, NSS, NYK and also involving Ashas, Anganwadis and Community Resource & Rehabilitation Workers, in those locations, where a youth organisations presence was not pronounced. After a series of detailed deliberations, it was decided that the Scouts & Guides, would cover all Polling booth located in schools, both in rural and urban areas, the NSS meanwhile would expand its reach to all such PS located in colleges, and in urban pockets and in District HQs, whereas the NYK would cover Rural areas, and in locations and hamlets where its rural volunteers were functioning. This was followed by a State Level Workshop in collaboration with the Josh Talks Team of motivators and influencers. The training dwelled on aspects ranging from orientation about the constitutional and democratic rights, to accessible elections with a deep focus on a Poll Volunteers specific role, on how to be engaged meaningfully with the electoral process, The training also paved the way for sensitizing and orienteering the freshly minted volunteers to gain firsthand experience, exposure, besides offering a ring side view of the entire Polling and Electoral Canvas. Post training, and prior to their deployment as Poll Volunteer each volunteer, was provided colourful Poll Volunteer kits, comprising Election branded T-Shirts, Cap and poll volunteer paraphernalia to facilitate their visible and active presence and deployment in the field.. On Poll Day the Poll Volunteers truly lived up to their task, and were seen at many places actively assisting the PWD, the aged and infirmed in various Polling Stations. In some moving images, Poll Volunteers, stood proud testimony, to the ethos of compassion in action, carrying physically disabled voters, holding a senior citizens hand and escorting them to their respective Polling Stations, readily lending their shoulders to support the weak the old and the needy. The striking images of young shoulders and tender hands/eagerly and compassionately shouldering the tasks entrusted, remains etched indelibly in the public consciousness. Undoubtedly, the meaningful engagement of the Poll Volunteers this time, generated a substantial amount of goodwill amongst the voting community, at large, and particularly amongst the marginalized and peripheral voters, therefore, for whom Poll Volunteer’s involvement will be long remembered and cherished. Leading editors in their editorials lauded the maiden foray of Poll Volunteers in the election process on Poll Day. One of the editorials, even mentioned that “…..this is a major achievement in bringing inclusiveness in the way elections are conducted in the state…the support of volunteers like Scouts & Guides, NSS is a fresh initiative in making young people engage in democracy and have a firsthand experience in the electoral process…..with these measures the office has moved one step ahead, in making a point to ensure that differently abled people and senior citizen exercise their rights without any hassle by making the polling booth truly accessible to them”. In another editorial appearing in the state’s leading daily, it was mentioned by the state’s leading editor that “the ECI has done its job commendably surpassing past efforts, and actually turning the phrase “No voter to be left behind a reality……this time the CEO has pulled all the stops to enable physically disabled voter and the elderly cast their votes without hassle….boy scouts, girl guides and NSS volunteers were seen assisting voters and volunteering happily in all the activities”. The nascent promptings of this initiative has set a benchmark in electoral engagement of the youth, and is definitely going to have a positive ramification and a wider ripple effect, and perhaps herald a deeper and positive engagement of young people in all future elections. The authentic connect established is a manifestation of that trust, which in years ahead, is sure to further expand the narrative of inclusive democracy achieved through accessible elections. The legacy achieved undoubtedly is that of a Poll Volunteer’s indelible connect with democratic ethos and electoral democracy. Poll Volunteers collective involvement on poll day, in fact, contributed substantially to amplify the message of an increasingly inclusive and accessible election. These combined efforts will definitely fulfil the noble mandate of multiplying the electoral reach, to the unreached both in a physical tangible sense, and also in ways, that are intangible, sending out a loud message that there is an election machinery that cares about its young, its old and infirm and disabled that it is concerned for each and every voter, and that, truly every voter counts, to this effect the Poll Volunteer, has truly acted as a living bridge to democracy and in the process of being empowered, has also empowered the nation and, which in turn has enriched the entire inter play between the voter, the Poll Volunteer and the voting experience especially for the PwD aged and infirm. The involvement, meaningful engagement and services rendered by the Poll Volunteers was duly recognized and their engagement would be continued and sustained through the ECI’s democratic platform of Electoral Literacy Clubs and Chunav Pathshalas.  

About Us

SVEEPSystematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) is a programme of multi interventions through different modes and media designed to educate citizens, electors and voters about the electoral process in order to increase their awareness and participation in the electoral processes. SVEEP is designed according to the socio-economic, cultural and demographic profile of the state as well as the history of electoral participation in previous rounds of elections and learning thereof.   

Election Commission of India

ECIThe Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering election processes in India. The body administers elections to the Lok SabhaRajya Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country. The Election Commission operates under the authority of Constitution per Article 324, and subsequently enacted Representation of the People Act

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