THE ELECTION Commission (EC) on Monday deployed over 5,500 students from across Mumbai to assist the elderly and physically challenged voters. The EC will pay Rs 300 to each student in return for their volunteering work though not all students have been promised remuneration.
An official said that such work would help inculcate the importance of voting among the students and also teach them the virtue of helping others. The EC had chosen students from Class IX to XII for the work.
At Pawar Public School in Bhandup, eight students were deployed to help the physically challenged and the senior citizens. Nikhil Salian, a Class IX student of Guru Nanak School, said: “After EC officials came to our school, I, along with nine other students, were asked to do volunteering work on election day. I have been promised Rs 300. On Sunday, they told me about my duties on the election day.”
“We had taken the help of 334 students from different schools in Bhandup. Among them, 47 went around in autorickshaws and ferried senior citizens or the physically challenged to the polling stations. Others were posted at the polling stations, where they helped wheelchair-bound voters,” said a EC official.
Along with two of his school mates, Class IX student Sachin Wankhede from Pragat Vidya Mandir was assigned 11 booths in Andheri cha Raja compound in Andheri West. Since 7 am, the three boys helped voters to their respective booths. With one wheelchair among the three, each took turns to help those in need.
“My family always votes. I was keen to see how it’s done,” said Moin Khan, a Class X student. In some schools, students were also trained on how to provide assistance and the procedure to follow for voters whose names were not on voting list.
At Jogeshwari’s Millat High School, Mansuri Mohd Anas volunteered for the first time. “Since the booths are on the first and second floors, and there are no lifts, I helped senior citizens climb the stairs,” Anas said. He studies in Millat Junior College, from where five students are volunteering. “Many voters couldn’t find their polling booths. We guided them.”
At St Catherine High School in Andheri West, eight students waited for six physically challenged voters registered with the EC. Sagar Sarkar, a Class X student, said vehicles were arranged by EC to pick and drop the physically challenged. “Mostly EC officials handled such voters,” he said.
Raju Patodkar, from the Mumbai EC office, said that in the island city, 40 to 50 student volunteers were exclusively roped in for 10 Assembly seats for physically challenged voters. Archana Shambharkar, from suburban EC office, said in the suburbs, each of the 1,300 polling centres had four students assigned on an average.