Maharashtra government seeks help of housing societies to improve voting for Lok Sabha polls

The Maharashtra government is relying on office-bearers of housing societies, to spread voter awareness and improve polling percentage in the Lok Sabha elections in the state

The Maharashtra government, through its Cooperatives Department and collectorates, has reminded housing societies about its seven-year-old directive, to make their presidents and secretaries ‘booth-level volunteers’, to ensure 100% voting on their premises. The department had issued a directive to the office-bearers of housing societies in 2012, asking them to make audit of their respective society mandatory and furnish a list of shifted, dead and new voters before July 31 every year. “This directive is still very much relevant and we are reminding the office-bearers of housing societies to ensure 100% voting in coming elections,” an official said.

However, Dharmin Sampat, honorary secretary, Cooperative Societies Residents, Users and Welfare Association, is not impressed with the government’s move, saying it is simply passing the buck. “Authorities are trying to shift the responsibility to the office-bearers, who render their services with zero pay. Instead, the government should devise another mechanism, to ensure 100% voting,” Sampat said.

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DS Vader, honorary secretary, Mumbai District Co-op Housing Society Federation Ltd, said they have been approached by state government and election officials, to ensure 100% voting on their premises. The Federation is the government-approved apex body of housing societies in Maharashtra. Vader said, “The department has approached us to raise the percentage of voting. We are going to publish a sankalp patra (document of resolution), which we have prepared in association with the election department. The document will be pasted in front of every housing society building in Mumbai and other parts of the state. With this sankalp patra, all members of the society will take oath to cast their votes.”

Social activist Mayank Gandhi also launched a campaign, ‘Ungli Dikha’, urging voting to exercise their franchise. “For this cause, we are holding 1,000 street plays in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane. Besides, we have tied up with 1.5 lakh dabbawalas (tiffin carriers) to spread awareness,” Gandhi said.

Additional chief electoral officer Dilip Shinde said, “Voting percentage has certainly improved and it seems our efforts have paid off. Not only in urban areas, but in Naxal-hit areas like Gadchiroli, too, we witnessed higher voting (in the first phase on April 11, 2019 that covered seven Lok Sabha seats in the state).”

The first round posted over 60% voting. Maharashtra, which has 48 Lok Sabha seats, is voting in four phases. The first round is over and the next three phases will be held on April 18, 23 and 29.

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