Bangalore is home to a number of organizations working hard on voter awareness. It is now time to join hands to do our bit for the nation, says HARSHINI VAKKALANAKA

The voter turnout in Delhi this year was 66 per cent as against last year’s 57 per cent. And more importantly, a one-year-old party has proved to be a giant killer.

Last year’s elections in Bangalore (Urban) saw a shift in voter turnout — albeit not a large one from 47.3 per cent to 52.83 per cent. Voter turnout in Karnataka moved from 64 to 68 per cent to over 70.23 percent. There was some improvement in pockets, partly because of BBMP’s voter awareness drives. The efforts of NGOs and organizations working to reach out to the voter, make a huge difference. For next year’s Lok Sabha polls, , these Bangalore-based organisations tell you how you can make a difference.

Janaagraha

“Democracy is not about being a spectator, democracy is about participation, which is what will help us have an empowered and legitimate government in India,” says Santosh More, Manager, Jaagte Raho Programme at Janaagraha. “We always complain about the government not doing what it has to or about how it has to improve. The first step for improvement is to make a difference on your own by electing the right leader. What is happening now is that 40 or 50 percent of the people are choosing the government for the remaining 50 per cent as well. If we want to have a government which is representative of a maximum number of people then we should vote.”

In last year’s elections, Janaagraha was working in the Shanthi Nagar Constituency, whose voter turnout, according to Santosh jumped 14 percent from 44 to 58 per cent. They are now working on Proper Urban Electoral Role (PURE), a system of maintenance of voter lists.

“Many people who want to vote don’t find their names on the list. This happens mainly because migration between cities is huge, over 20 percent of people are constantly moving in or out of a constituency, so we have to maintain the voter list in a sustainable and continuous manner.

“We conducted a study in Bangalore which suggests that there is 20 per cent error in voter lists and this means that 20 lakh voters names ought to have been deleted. These errors make a huge difference to vote margins and increase chances of fraudulent voting.”

Maintaining lists then automatically increases voter turnout which is calculated using the total number of people who turned up to vote against the total number of names on the list. This is combined with voter awareness programmes, in a two-pronged approach, to increase the total voter turnout. Janagraha is working with over 5,100 volunteers (first in Bangalore and then in Delhi before moving onto other cities) on these programmes. For details, contact 40790400 or visit www.janaagraha.org.

Bangalore Political Action Committee

“I believe that the main reason why we should vote is that by voting we are exercising our ownership of the democratic process,” says K. Jairaj, trustee and secretary of the Bangalore Political Action Committee. “Every citizen is an owner of the democratic process. By not voting, we abdicate our right to be a citizen. Our vote determines how our country will move forward and how the government will shape the country. And so low voting means poor governance.”

Jairaj observes how the voter turnout in Bangalore marginally improved last year. “Our aim is to see all eligible people register to vote and having registered, exercise their right. Bangalore is the most knowledgeable city in India with a large concentration of educated population. So we should aim for a turnout of 90 per cent.”

This time, the committee hopes to conduct voter registration drives, apart from promoting clean elections. The committee also endorses clean candidates. “We also supplement the efforts of other organizations working on voter awareness. This is the time of the involved citizen. All along we were passive and we let events pass us by. Now the voice of the people is being heard, as we saw in Delhi, and it will soon start happening in Bangalore.” For details, visit www.bpac.in.

Volunteer for a better India movement

The volunteer for a better India movement, launched by the Art of Living Foundation, has voter awareness as one of the main agendas of the movement and so in Bangalore, volunteers have been working on conducting voter awareness drives in association with the district election office.

This includes flash mobs, human chains, signature campaigns, bike rallies, silent marches (vote-a-thon), street shows (nukkad natak) and putting up banners, spreading voter awareness around the city.

“We have also been conducting election drives in the RWA and other similar forums,” says one of the campaign managers, Ramya Rajashekar. “In the last 15 days, we have enrolled more than 20,000 people onto voter lists. And we hope to raise the turnout to 80 per cent in the next elections. I believe that everybody is born with a sense of patriotism and service, and so for me there doesn’t need to be a bigger reason to serve my country. Voting is our birthright, lakhs of people have given their lives for our nation to be free and democratic. It is our duty to keep their sacrifices alive.

“More good people voting means, more good people will stand for elections. If a large section of society votes, it makes democracy vibrant and powerful and makes every politician accountable to all, not just one section of society. We can be part of the solution instead of being part of the problem by complaining.”

The Art of Living has also launched a ‘Vote for A Better India’ mobile application that lets you register to vote in India in three steps. It can be downloaded on the Google Play Store. For details, call 9900180242 or visit www.vfabi.org