Citizen Matters Magazine – Vol 1 Issue 5
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Happy Ugadi to you all! Elections are around. Well they’ve always been around you might say. After all our democracy is over 60-years-old now. What’s different this time? No, not really, it’s not the politics. It’s not the policy promises either.
It’s the interest in voting amongst the middle and upper classes — the groups who are usually scorned by politicians and NGOs as too aloof to dirty their hands with ‘running to file a form’ or ‘going to the booth to stand in line to vote’. Scores of hitherto non-voters are now adding themselves to the rolls around the country.
Bengaluru is no exception. In a pattern that was seen earlier last year during the state assembly elections, this time too, last-minute voter registrations have become a mini-fever for the well-educated. The long lines at BBMP’s voter facilitation centres (VFCs) last Saturday (21st March) morning and evening were a telling story.
Not surprisingly, the lines were a close-enough representation of the country numerous classes of income. At the Madiwala BBMP VFC, there were people from the upper-middle income groups all the way down to vegetable vendor-women. Pens were going around, citizens requesting and serving blank forms to each other….in general there was an atmosphere of decency and helpfulness amidst everyone lined up.
For their part, while the authorities must be complimented on keeping registration offices open in the afternoons from 4pm-8pm (a visionary measure), the bad news begins there.
A timely, accurate and comprehensive list of voter centres within and outside municipal limits seems like a Holy Grail for our local officials. The result: numerous complaints of wrong centre addresses, phone numbers, unclear timings, unfamiliarity with the organisation of voter centres by geographical units, and more. For people outside BBMP limits, it has been that much harder.
The silver lining for civil society has been multiple awareness campaigns, prominent amongst them being the corporate-sponsored Jaagore. There has been a clear impact, even as other factors are bound to be at play for the rising interest levels in voting.
On that positive note, we’re pleased to tell you that the Citizen Matters turned one-year-old this month. We are now followed online by over 23,000 citizens like you from around Bengaluru and we hope to keep serving you with more and more useful local news and information.
Till next time, Subbu Vincent