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Lok Sabha elections: Election Commission urges women, PwDs, senior citizens to vote in maximum number

As the voting for the high-octane Lok Sabha Elections begins today (Friday), Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar has urged people to participate in the general elections in maximum number, informing that around 16.86 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the first phase of polls for 102 constituencies and nearly 1.86 lakh polling stations have been set up for the purpose.

The CEC told ANI in an interview that the preparations for the Lok Sabha elections started two years ago. “From preparing the border list to preparing polling stations, finding their routes, deployment of forces, finding out vulnerable booths, creating amenities at the booths–light, shade, ramps, minimum facilities…it’s a tremendous exercise that started over two years ago.”

He also referred to the poll panel using technological interventions for promoting inclusivity and wider participation in the polls. “So everything is set. It is now time for voters to come and vote in large numbers at every polling station.”

Kumar said that it is essential for voters including women and youth to take part in the elections. We made an amendment in the Act where qualifying dates were made four instead of one – on January 1 of every year. There are a large number of young voters. There are voters who are transgenders. It’s a truly inclusive voter list that has been prepared. The campaigning for the first phase is over. The silent period is over. Now this is the day of polling, the first one. It’s for the voters to come, enjoy it at the polling station,” he said.

The CEC said that it’s very enthusiastic to see young voters getting enrolled. “We also did a lot of activities in the colleges and very youth-specific activities. We see a lot of enthusiasm. We have also done a lot of awareness-raising activities. So, if you keep using your finger on social media or on the phone the whole day, this is the time to spend five minutes and enjoy the power of voting at the polling station. Press the button on the electronic voting machine there. I’m sure this time our young voters are going to come ….we have appealed to them to become our ambassadors, to become our influencers,” he said.

“Bring as many friends as possible including family members to the polling station. Enjoy the festival. Feel the responsibility of selecting and electing your own government,” he added.

Speaking on the ways to ensure the maximum participation of specially-abled and elderly people in the Lok Sabha election, the CEC said there is a facility for them to cast a vote from the comfort of their home.

“We have earmarked in our electoral rolls persons with disabilities, 40 per cent and above. There is a facility for them to cast a vote from the comfort of their home, if they so desire. But our experience is that many of them want to come to the polling station. And we provide them a volunteer, we provide them with wheelchairs, and it’s not a question of physical comfort that we provide, it’s a question of giving them the due respect and empowerment,” he said.

The Election Commission of India (ECI), for the first time in a Lok Sabha Election, has provided the facility of home voting for the elderly and Persons with Disabilities. Voters above 85 years of age and Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) with 40 per cent benchmark disability can avail the optional home voting facility. There are over 81 lakh 85+ aged voters and 90 lakh + PwD voters registered across the country.

“We have issued great guidelines to political parties to be very sensitive while talking about people with disabilities…they are more capable than most of us. It’s a question of just giving them those opportunities,” Kumar added.

He also talked of ease of voting in Manipur which has seen ethnic violence. “We have made a special scheme for voting in the camps. There are more than 18,000 people who have already registered with us to vote from the camps. Our teams will take their vote wherever they are. Our attempt was and is that nobody is disfranchised, everybody is given a chance to vote. Postal ballet, through camp…wherever. So we have done something, and I’ am sure people will vote and establish the point that it’s the ballot that gives the answers,” he said.

Informing about the ways to tackle muscle power, money, misinformation and Model Code of Conduct (MCC) violations, the CEC said that a large number of security and non-security measures are in place to ensure security and prevent violence.

“We are informing of all the steps we have taken to tackle the MCC violations and the money seizures done to the media and to everybody at large. So, everything is being reported and today is the day of voting.”

He said there are SSTs (strategic surveillance teams), FSTs (flying squad teams) apart from police personnel.

“A large number of security and non-security measures are in place. The only point is that people must come and vote. Whoever is listening, please come and vote. It’s phase one, and there are six phases to come. Find out your polling station through our applications.We have distributed VIS (voter information slips),” he said.

“More than 16 crore voter slips have been distributed in phase one. It’s a kind of invitation that is reaching your house, saying this is your polling station. This is your voter list. Please come and vote. youth, male, female, old age, transgender, everybody we are looking for. Our staff is a very well trained. Teams are there at all the polling stations to welcome you very, very courteously. Please come,” the CEC noted.

In the first phase, polling will be held in seats in 21 states and union territories. These are – Arunachal Pradesh (two seats), Assam (five), Bihar (four), Chhattisgarh (one), Madhya Pradesh (six), Maharashtra (five), Manipur (two), Meghalaya (two), Mizoram (one), Nagaland (one), Rajasthan (12), Sikkim (one), Tamil Nadu (39), Tripura (one), Uttar Pradesh (eight), Uttarakhand (five), West Bengal (three), Andaman and Nicobar (one), Jammu and Kashmir (one), Lakshadweep (one) and Puducherry (one).

The 2024 general elections will be held in India in seven phases, from April 19 to June 1 to elect the 543 members of the 18th Lok Sabha. The results will be announced on June 4. (ANI)

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