In an attempt to increase voter turnout for the upcoming urban local bodies elections, the government has directed all private firms, IT companies, shops, shopping malls etc to declare election days — February 16 and February 21 — as paid holidays for all employees.
Offering “ethical incentives”, the State Election Commission (SEC) too is roping in hotels, restaurants and shopping malls to offer discounts to those who cast their vote.
The department of industries has issued a Government Resolution asking all private companies, shops and establishments to declare the two voting days as paid holidays, or to relieve their employees for a few hours, so they can exercise their vote.
“This has been done in order to ensure that maximum people come out and vote. All government and semi-government establishments have also been asked to follow the directive,” said an official of the SEC.
Elections to 10 municipal corporations, 26 Zilla Parishads and 286 Panchayat Samitis are scheduled to be held in two phases. While in phase one, elections in 15 Zilla Parishads and 165 Panchayat Samitis will be held on February 16, in the second phase, 10 municipal coporations, 11 Zilla parishads and 118 panchayat samitis will go to polls on February 21.
The GR dated February 2 has listed down in detail names of districts and cities and days on which elections will be held there. “With this declaration, we expect to receive a good response at all polling booths. Also, we have asked those establishments and companies that might incur losses in the absence of employees to considered giving a few-hours break or a half-day to their employees,” said the official.
Citizens across the state can also avail of hotel and restaurant discounts on February 16 and February 21 if they exercise their vote.
Hoteliers and restaurant owners have assured the SEC that they would do their bit to increase the voter turnout during the zilla parishad and municipal polls. State Election Commissioner JS Saharia said: “Hoteliers have assured us that they would provide discounts to voters on the two days.”
So far, MTDC and Matheran Hotels Association and some individual restaurants and retail groups in Mumbai, Pune etc. have come forward to offer the discounts, said an official.
Saharia said the voting percentage for municipal elections has never crossed the 55-per-cent mark, which is a cause for concern. He said that the SEC would also enlist the help of housing societies, educational institutes, airports authorities, railways and the social media to increase voter turnout this time.