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Gujarat elections will do a lot of good to schools, students

Shorab Negi | Ahmedabad |

Basic facilities in schools are coming as a byproduct of elections in Gujarat. Irrespective of who wins the elections, one thing is clear that the democratic process will do a lot of good to the schoolchildren, who, perhaps, will get access to better toilets, safe drinking water, cleanliness post-polls!

About 300 primary schools have been sent a circular by the District Education Officer (DEO), Ahmedabad City, directing them to ensure clean toilets, safe drinking water on the polling day.

The circular states: “Keeping the coming Assembly election in mind, election officials from the Daskroi constituency have written a letter stating that during the inspection of various schools for election booths, it was noticed that many of them did not have drinking water facility nor were the toilets and campuses clean. Thus, school principals are asked to make sure that keeping the Election Day, which is December 14, in mind, there should be an availability of clean drinking water and schools will have to keep the toilets and campuses clean on an immediate basis (sic.).”

Does that mean DEO knows that the condition of schools is bad? Hygiene and basic amenities should be a norm and not an occasional practice.

Navneet Mehta, DEO (City) said, “When elections are being conducted, we have been given instructions which we need to convey to the schools to ensure that cleanliness is maintained. We conduct inspections throughout the year in school to see if things are in place, so, this is not election specific. The circular has not been issued under pressure.”

Students as guides

In another development, the Election Commission (EC) has roped in nearly 50-lakh students, from classes 1 to 10, to guide their parents to exercise their right to vote and keep them informed about the technological upgrade.

Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) survey conducted by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in Gujarat conducted in April and May 2017, covering 49 constituencies across the state, had revealed that as many as 87% of respondents claimed they are not aware of the VVPAT (voter-verifiable paper audit trail) system, which makes voting machines more accountable.

The latest initiative of involving schoolchildren to educate their parents about VVPATs and the procedure to be followed during voting, will go along way in transforming youngsters into responsible adults.

The voting pledge, which is both in Hindi and English, will be given to all the school students. In this pledge complete information about VVPAT and EVM is given in detail and has important pointers for the voters. The students will be asked to share the pledge with their parents and to get them read it and then sign it to confirm they have understood it. The students will then bring the signed form and submit it to the school the next day.

The idea is to involve as many people as possible on a voluntary basis and at the same time educate them on the important points mentioned in the pledge document. The pointers on the pledge read:

  • I will check for my name in electoral roll if I am an eligible voter,
  • all voters in our family will cast our vote,
  • we are committed to keeping the democratic process healthy by not falling for any bribes, or for any pressure while casting our vote,
  • if we do not wish to vote for any candidate, then we will go to polling booth and cast a vote for None of the Above (NOTA).

VVPAT will be used in all the 50,128 polling booths during the upcoming Gujarat elections.