We are aiming at 90 percent polling
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We are aiming at 90 percent polling

April 22, 2023

State Nodal Officer P.S. Vastrad outlines strategies to bring out people from homes/offices to vote

By B. Sreekantswamy

In every election, there is a focus on increasing voter turnout, and with the election to Legislative Assembly scheduled for May 10, various awareness activities are being conducted by the District and Taluk-level Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) Committees. These committees cover 224 Assembly Constituencies with 5.24 crore voters and 58,282 polling stations.

Retired IAS Officer P.S. Vastrad has been the State Nodal Officer for SVEEP since 2018 and is working diligently to achieve the target. Many innovative activities have been undertaken, such as introducing a first-of-its-kind SVEEP Express bus to create awareness on voting on wheels in Bagalkot District.

Each of the 31 districts in the State is competing with one another, incorporating several innovative methods to make the programmes a success.

In a telephonic interview with Star of Mysore, Vastrad, who had previously served as Deputy Commissioner of Mysuru from June 2011 to November 2012, discussed the activities organised and the response from voters. These are significant factors in achieving the  desired results. Excerpts.

Star of Mysore (SOM): How have you identified the areas for focusing SVEEP activities?

Vastrad: This time, we have identified booths with low voter turnout in previous elections as our focus areas. We have identified 10 districts, including BBMP-North, South and Central, Kalyana-Karnataka (formerly Hyderabad-Karnataka) regions such as Bidar, Kalaburagi and Raichur, as well as Dharwad district. We will also focus on urban areas in all 10 City Corporation limits, including the Mysuru City Corporation (MCC), Tumakuru City Corporation and Hubli-Dharwad Municipal Corporation (HDMC).

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SOM: Have you come across any issues or problems during the visits? If so, what solutions have you found to address them?

Vastrad: Thankfully, we have not encountered any major issues or discrepancies during our visits to the polling booths. However, we have been working hard to create a comfortable and convenient atmosphere for voters on the day of the elections. We have made sure that basic amenities like shaded areas, drinking water, and other facilities are available at all the polling booths. We are constantly monitoring the situation and taking any necessary steps to address any issues that may arise.

SOM: Can you tell us about any innovative activities taken up under SVEEP?

Vastrad: One of the most innovative activities that has been taken up is the ‘SVEEP Express’ by the District Level SVEEP Committee in Bagalkot. A KSRTC bus has been converted into a ‘Mock Polling Booth’ that will travel through various parts of the district and stop for some time, allowing voters to experience the voting process.

The interior of the bus resembles an actual polling booth, complete with Presiding Officers, Polling Officers-1 and 2, Electronic Voting Machine (EVM), Control Unit and other important elements. There is also a board inside the bus that lists 12 alternative documents required apart from Voter ID to cast a vote, as well as various slogans in Kannada and English displayed both inside and outside the bus.

SOM: This time, you have many brand ambassadors  for SVEEP?

Vastrad: Yes, in this region, former international cricketer Javagal Srinath is serving as the SVEEP Ambassador for Mysuru District, while Sandalwood actor Sathish Ninasam is taking on the role of Mandya District Youth Icon. In Chamarajanagar, 92-year-old tribal midwife Madamma is serving as the ambassador.

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In Kodagu, the administration has engaged commoners from the society as SVEEP Ambassadors, including S.K. Eshwari, a specially-abled woman from Mekeri village, Basavaraj Badiger, an arts and painting teacher from Seventh Hoskote Government Higher Primary School and K. Ravi Muthappa, a Home Guard.

SOM: What is the target for voter turnout this time?

Vastrad: In the previous elections held in 2018, the overall voting percentage was 72.13 percent, the highest ever recorded since the first elections held in 1952. This time, although the goal is to touch a voter turnout of 90 percent, we aim to increase the polling percentage by at least 10 percent compared to the 2018 elections.

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