Folk song competitions, quiz programmes and appeals by celebrities are some of the initiatives being undertaken by the state election department in Assam for attracting women, first-time voters, people with physical disabilities and senior citizens to cast their votes on the polling day.
Sprinter Hima Das, Whitley Awardee and environmentalist Purnima Devi Barman, singer Tarali Sarma, bodybuilder Golap Rabha and actor Kopil Bora have been roped in as state icons to create awareness about the electoral process.
District election officers have been directed to reach out to the maximum number of voters in the constituencies under their respective jurisdiction, Assam Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Mukesh Sahu said.
"We have kept the local aspects in mind while chalking out the programmes under the Systematic Voters' Education and Electoral Practices (SVEEP) and our aim is to reach out to all sections of the electorate," Sahu said.
Hima Das, herself a first-time voter in the forthcoming polls, has urged young voters in a promotional video, to actively participate in the Lok Sabha election.
Tarali Sarma, who sang the theme song in another promotional video to drum up awareness among the voters, is seen appealing to first-time voters to make "informed and ethical choices" while casting their "precious" vote.
"I am honoured to have been selected by the Election office as an icon and I am committed to ensure that people, particularly the young voters, make informed and ethical choices in the polls," Sarma said.
Besides organising cycle rallies and street plays, campus ambassadors are being appointed in colleges for holding 'chunaav pathshalas' to spread the awareness among first-time voters, through co-curricular activities.
In Kamrup district, an election quotient quiz was organised for students while 200 students of IIT Guwahati, have volunteered to undertake door-to-door campaigns in the interior areas, a district election official said.
A major component of the SVEEP is to remove gender gap in polls and an initiative, 'Aaideur Chora' has been taken up in collaboration with the Assam State Rural Livelihood Mission (ASRLM) and Assam State Urban Livelihood Mission (ASULM) to sensitize female voters, the CEO said.
The ASRLM and ASULM are mobilizing the self-help groups (SHGs) at their disposal, to open women help desks at various government outlets like gram panchayat offices and cooperative societies to facilitate women voters to verify their names, go through electoral rolls and make corrections, if needed.
They can also register their names if these do not appear on the rolls, delete multiple entries on electoral rolls, apply for deletion of names of dead persons and for those who have changed addresses.
'Chandraprabha', a woman mascot, will be used for spreading the message of electoral participation in the local language.
The nodal officers of the SVEEP campaigns in the districts are organising 'Naam' (folk song) singing, 'pitha' and 'laru' (Assamese sweets) making competitions and street plays to involve the women in the awareness campaigns.
Polling stations with low female voter turnout have been identified and 'mahila voter rallies' are being held in these areas, the CEO said. The rallies will involve ASHA workers and Anganwadi workers as well as members of SHGs.
Village Ambassadors have been appointed from among the members of SHGs to spread the message of voter education and electoral participation among the people.
Sahu said that the ECI has stressed on an inclusive and accessible election this time and so persons with disabilities are a major area of focus.
To maximise the participation of persons with disabilities on the polling day, the district authorities have been directed to compile a list of such persons and voters with severe locomotor disabilities, must be provided pick up and drop facilities to enable them to exercise their franchise.
Similarly, senior citizens are also being identified and steps will be taken to ensure that they are able to cast their votes, he said.
The Lok Sabha elections in Assam will be held in three phases on April 11, 18 and 23.