Thursday, January 8, 2009

Making Every Vote Count



Urban Indians may have a sense of pride for their country’s democratic credentials but as electoral records will tell you, these sentiments don’t translate into any significant contributions into the system. Voter turnout has been dismally low in cities across the country. The lack of awareness about the formalities and documentation has also kept many potential voters at bay.

Few NGO’s and government agencies are working to reverse this trend. This year saw the emergence of a new initiative heralded by Tata Tea and Janaagraha, a Bangalore-based NGO working on urban governance which claims to have been successful in getting people listed and eligible to vote in unprecedented numbers. With states like Jammu & Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi already in various phases of elections, the initiative couldn’t have come at a better time.

'Jaago Re - One Billion Votes' campaign, which covers 35 cities aims to reach out to the young, unregistered-eligible voters who have been hesitant to apply to vote due to the excruciating amount of time and effort that goes into getting oneself enlisted on the electoral roll.

Talking about the success of the campaign, Jasmine Shah, Campaign Coordinator, said, "Our unique campaign has been a resounding success with exciting responses from across India. The biggest response has come from Mumbai city with over 20% of total registration coming from here. This is twice as much as compared to any other Indian city.

This campaign has been one of the first attempts at using technology to simplify the process for applying for an election card. The application process involves registering online, after which, the applicant will be required to fill a two page form and forward it to the local ERO (Electoral Registration Officer) whose contact details is provided in the website. The applicant can also track the progress of his application online.


A recent visitor of the site, Kuldeep Jalan expressed satisfaction over the information provided and the overall look and presentation of the site." It can get a bit confusing at times as all the information is bundled together. As you spend more time navigating the site it does get interesting. The campaign is definitely welcome and has my full support," he said .


“We launched our website on 16th September, 2008 with the aim of creating awareness about the voter registration process and to make it easier for the youth and unregistered-eligible voters to exercise their right, while having the maximum knowledge about the their rights and the electoral process,” explained Prashant Nanaware, Outreach Associate of West Zone of the Jaago Re campaign.


The Jaago-Re website is very popular with over 15,000 unique visitors everyday."We have received 60,000 email leads with over 14,000 volunteers showing interest", says Rajesh Choudhary, Technology Coordinator for Janaagraha". He also informed that the next set of voter list will come out by January and another one between March-April, before the elections.

It is hoped that the campaign will add a significant number of voters to turn up at election time and contribute to our much cherished democratic system.

The future plans of the campaign include:

* Planning a tie-up with the Election commission
* Making voters list available to the public
* Providing candidates list and their profile
* Sending reminder SMS and voting booth details
* Enhanced Profile, Blog, and City pages to be added soon

Jaago Re Fact File:

* Covers 35 Cities
* Targets the Youth and Unregistered-eligible voters
* Provides Information and Updates to new Voters
* Applicants can also Volunteer in the Campaign
* India's first online voter registration engine

Source: Mumbai Mirror
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