From escorting senior citizens to helping wheelchair-bound voters, school students in Delhi help make the voting process in the capital city smoother.Think Change India
Free and fair polls are the foundation of any democracy, and it goes without saying that every vote counts. However, exercising their franchise is not an easy task for some, in particular senior citizens and physically challenged persons. However, this Lok Sabha elections, they were in for a pleasant surprise as a group of student volunteers in Delhi took it upon themselves to make casting their ballot an easier task.
On Sunday, as the capital city went to the polls in the 6th phase of the Lok Sabha elections, the Election Commission, in an unprecedented move, recruited students from government schools across the city as volunteers at polling booths. The students reported to the polling stations as early as 5.45 am, and assisted polling officials in making the process efficient and hassle-free.
These students’ primary responsibilities involved guiding voters to the right booths, and assisting senior citizens, the physically challenged and visually impaired to the booth. Special care was also given to pregnant women and lactating mothers. Newly eligible voters were given flowers, while children who accompanied their families got candies.
“If anybody wants to check their names in the voter list before getting inside, I have been helping them out,” Sarthak Chaudhary, a Class VIII student at a Gujranwala town polling booth told NDTV. “Fulfilling any requests for wheelchair and facilitating early entry of pregnant women are part of my duties," he added.
Before beginning their duties at polling stations, student volunteers were given detailed training on the day before the election day.
“We were told how to communicate with the speech- and hearing-impaired voters, and how to help the physically challenged voters while shifting them into wheelchairs. We were told to be polite,” Nighat, a student from Zeenat Mehal Senior Secondary School told Hindustan Times.
The students also collaborated with volunteers from the Nehru Yuva Kendra - a youth organisation focussed on community support and development. The volunteers also contacted over 50 people with disabilities and offered help to bring them to the polling booths from their homes. Close to 70 percent of those contacted cast their vote, reports Hindustan Times.
The plan to induct school students as volunteers for the electoral process was set in motion as early as in March this year. A senior official from the Chief Electoral Officer’s office told Hindustan Times that earlier, student volunteers were recruited only from colleges, universities, and the National Cadet Corps (NCC). On inducting school students this time, the official said,
“Who would know the school premises the best – the location of rooms, drinking water, toilets — other than a student of that school? Hence the plan to utilise this huge resource.”
And the plan seemed to have worked. Eighty-one-year-old Mitlesh Saxena, who was escorted to the booth and back to her car by a student, told the The Hindu that while “there was not much help last time”, this time, the volunteers were of great assistance.