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Elections are a festival of democracy, says head of Sakhi polling booth

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Citizens say casting their vote felt like a party

Gaily decorated and managed by an all-woman staff, the Sakhi polling booth in Tarkhad village of Vasai constituency took voters by surprise on Monday.

While the entrance was decked with tricoloured balloons, a red carpet leading to the booth and potted plants on both sides of the walkway; baby pink tablecloths, neatly arranged flowers and pink curtains adorned the polling room.

Election duty officer Madhavi Tande, who headed the booth, said the centre was managed by a team of 10 women. “We welcomed senior citizens by offering them red roses. Many voters were surprised when we gave them roses and we had to tell them that it was because they were casting their vote at a special booth,” she said.

Ms. Tande said elections are regarded as a festival of democracy but seldom is anything done to make them feel like one. “To create an atmosphere of festivity, our team decided to dress up in colour-coordinated sarees. Our attempt is to make voting a joyous experience. Voters should feel rewarded for exercising their right,” she said.

Sunil Fernandes (46), who came to the centre to cast his vote, said the red carpet at the entrance made voters feel like kings and queens of democracy. “When I entered the booth, it felt like I was going for a party. Everything was systematically arranged and managed. The decor added a festive vibe to the otherwise mundane act of casting vote in a dull room,” he said.

Celebratory mood: Senior citizens voting at the Sakhi booth were greeted with roses; (right) the colourful decor at its entrance.

Celebratory mood: Senior citizens voting at the Sakhi booth were greeted with roses; (right) the colourful decor at its entrance.  

Margaret Fernandes (76) said she was welcomed at the centre with a rose and it made her feel special. “I have cast votes all my life but this is the first time I received such a warm welcome. The decoration and respectful treatment by the staff made me feel like a dignitary at an important event,” she said.

A selfie point at the booth became yet another point of attraction. Several voters proceeded straight to the selfie point after casting their votes to click pictures.

Mclean Henriques (63) said voting at a well-managed and decorated booth felt unique. “I clicked several pictures at the selfie point and found the concept very interesting. It will be great if all polling booths look this fresh and exciting. Voting is our right and it is an absolute privilege to cast vote in such a merry atmosphere,” he said.

Another voter, Jidnya Mhatre (38) said she initially thought she had entered the wrong venue and was surprised to know that the centre was decorated for the voters. This year’s voting experience turned out to be quite unique, she said.

Another special polling booth managed by people with disabilities was set up in Vasai Koliwada.

Presiding officer of the booth, Kishor Patil, said him and three other disabled election duty officers managed the booth. “Through our booth we want to inform people that disabled people are not inferior to others in any way. This is our attempt to promote an inclusive society and let people know that if disabled people can manage an entire booth then stepping out and casting vote shouldn’t be a huge deal for them,” he said.

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Printable version | Dec 8, 2019 3:25:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/elections-are-a-festival-of-democracy-says-head-of-sakhi-polling-booth/article29762744.ece

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