The Karnataka State Election Commission is launching booth-level awareness groups (BAGs) in Bengaluru on Saturday, 12 January 2019, to promote responsible voting in the upcoming general elections. You can be a part of it too.
Voter turnout during Karnataka's Assembly elections last year touched a new peak at 72.13 percent, but state capital Bengaluru recorded a disappointing 51 percent, according to data from the Chief Electoral Office (CEO) of Karnataka. Overall, citizens - especially in urban areas - need to be more engaged and must exercise their right to vote.
The right to vote is the cornerstone of any democracy. The ballot represents the voice of people. It is the most powerful tool that citizens can exercise to bring about a change in not only their own neighbourhood, but the country as a whole. So, in order to engage more citizens in the electoral process and to enable them to be 'democracy warriors' in their own constituencies, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) as well as the Chief Electoral Office of Karnataka are teaming up with Bangalore Political Action Committee (B. PAC) and other civic organisations to launch ‘Booth Level Awareness Groups’, aka BAGs.
The first leg of this initiative, including its website and training programme, will be launched on Saturday, January 12, 2019, from 5 pm onwards at Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Race Course Road, Bengaluru.
BAGs are a group of 'democracy warriors' who will work towards spreading the message of responsible voting and in creating better awareness about contesting candidates.
Says AV Surya Sen, Joint Chief Electoral Officer, Karnataka,
“BAGs will involve an active participation of volunteers at the booth level. There will be a ‘democracy warrior’ for their own booth to ensure elimination of any malpractice and they will fight only for better democracy.”
[Check out what the Joint CEO had to say about BAGs.]
“B.PAC is very happy to join hands with the Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka in introducing this initiative. We invite all the concerned Bengalureans to this event to understand the roles and responsibilities of BAGs and become a proud and responsible BAG,” Revathy Ashok, Trustee and CEO, B.PAC, told YourStory.
Who can be a part of BAGs?
Any spirited citizen who intends to be an agent of change can register to be a part of BAGs.
According to guidelines from the Election Commission of India, "responsible voters from different booths, anganwadi staff members, teachers working with the postal department, government functionaries, para workers, representative of schools or colleges in booth areas as well as member representatives of local non-governmental organisations (NGOs)" are all eligible to sign up.
Explains Vastrad PS, a retired IAS officer and Consultant with the Chief Electoral Office of Karnataka,
“The only eligibility criteria to register as part of BAGs is that the citizen should be politically neutral. I am really looking forward to the celebration of democracy this Saturday.”
The city of Bengaluru has more than 8,000 booths spread across 27 constituencies, as per the CEO of Karnataka. The BBMP, B. PAC as well as the Electoral Office are working towards getting at least a couple of volunteers registered as part of each booth. They are also planning to conduct extensive training programmes for all volunteers in the coming weeks.
These programmes will touch upon the do's and don’ts about conducting awareness campaigns and the type of activities that can be organised to draw the attention of people at large.
Voting is both a privilege and duty of every citizen. It lays the path towards a stronger democracy. The BAGs initiative aims to offer a robust platform for citizens to build this path.