YOUNG STUDENTS lending a helping hand to the polling staff across various sectors in the City Beautiful were undoubtedly the most heartwarming feature of the May 19 polls. It is for the first time that the NSS had deployed its charming army of Class XII students on poll duty in the city.
From 7 in the morning to 7 in the evening, these energetic students held fort with a ready smile on their lips. Jagdish Kaur, the second person to vote at the Moti Ram Arya Senior Secondary Model School, Sector 27-A, says she was pleasantly surprised when she was greeted by two young boys. “They were so well-behaved and so welcoming, they made my day,’’ she beamed.
This was a sentiment shared by many people, especially the elderly. Most polling stations with two booths had been given a small team of 10-12 students, who were stationed strategically to keep an eye out for any help that either the voters or the polling staff could need.
Mandeep Singh, an NSS programme officer deployed at Sector 47 Govt Model Senior Secondary School, said the city has 102 government schools and colleges in all. “First, we asked the students to volunteer for the election duty, and then Election Commission officials gave them a day-long training on May 18.’’
They were given a brief about the dos and don’ts of polling, the various steps involved besides the different ways in which they could assist voters, especially senior citizens and the differently abled.
No wonder the first thing they asked every voter was, “Kya aap ke paas cell phone hai?” The phones were not allowed inside but many people had brought them along. Afsana, a Class XII student of GMSSS, Sector 47, said she was volunteering for the first time, and loved every moment of it. “It felt so good to help people. A woman I assisted in getting to the booth because she was finding it hard to walk without support blessed me and said ‘Beta, you will become an officer one day’.’’
There were many seniors who were given assistance, either in the form of a wheelchair or physical support. Gurvinder Kaur, another volunteer, said, ‘’I learnt a lot from this day-long exercise. Now I know how important it is to help others.’’
The students said the Chandigarh Administration gave them refreshments at regular intervals. At Government School Raipur Khurd, the students gently guided the voters and told them about the time it would take for them to cast their votes. Many even explained the process.
Satish, a student, said, “The voters were very cooperative, and they preferred to approach us instead of cops.’’
Satya Veer summed up the sentiments of many students when he said, “It is good to be here. We feel we are also contributing our bit to the elections, even if we don’t have a vote this time.”