Aiming to improve the city’s voter turnout figure from the stable 45 per cent recorded in the last couple of polls, Social Quotient, a non-profit organisation, has decided to target the youth in Mumbai. The apolitical initiative, Operation Black Dot, has drawn out plans for multiple projects through which it will try to engage more young people in the democratic process. The projects are likely to take off by the end of this month.
Aimed at effective dissemination of information, the organisation is working on a voter’s guide for every constituency to give people statistics and trivia about their area. “We are planning to partner with Praja Foundation to create a voter’s guide on various parameters including healthcare, education, solid waste management, infrastructure (roads and footpaths), water and sanitation. We want to give figures to people so that they can see where the money is being spent and that can help them make an assessment and choose the right candidate,” says Ruben Mascarenhas, chief operations officer of the campaign. He adds that the voter’s guide will be put up on their website that will be formally launched mid-December.
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The organisation is planning to partner with the University of Mumbai and it will conduct campus awareness programmes in at least 50 colleges. “Trends have indicated that young people are not voting in the municipal elections. We feel that young people need to start engaging with the system starting with the voting process and then hopefully they will get involved in other aspects as well,” says Aditya Paul, coordinator of the campaign.
The organisation is planning to organise a model that will allow college students to understand the civic issues on a first-hand basis. “The students will be allocated wards and they will have to meet the affected people as well as the MLAs and local corporators. Each of them will solve one problem in any of the parameters. They will test if the BMC is indeed functional in the city and we will help them follow up the issues,” says Mascarenhas. After the field work, the students can participate in a mock discussion on civic issues.
Another initiative of the campaign is Shat Pratishat, which plans to get college students to pledge their votes and spread awareness about participation in the polls. “We want to involve college students in our campaigns to reach out to more students and under this initiative the students can pledge their votes and then get their family members or other people in their building to vote as well,” says Paul.