By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, April 16 (IANS) High school and college students of Himachal Pradesh are daily getting tips on ways to strengthen democracy through 'Walls of Democracy' set up in 7,681 places, poll officials said.
The aim is to increase awareness among the future and first-time voters in a state where the literacy rate is at a high of 82.8 per cent and 90 per cent of the population resides in rural areas.
"We are expecting record 80 per cent voter turnout in these Lok Sabha polls," Neeraj Sharma, officer on special duty with the state election department, told IANS.
For this, the state Election Commission has started voter awareness campaigns across the state with the focus to motivate first-timers and sensitise those who are going to be enrolled as voters before the next elections.
"The Walls of Democracy are part of the Electoral Literacy Clubs that have been set up in each government high and senior secondary school along with each college and university in the state to sensitise students on electoral process in our democratic setup," Sharma explained.
Under this initiative, special lecturers by political science teachers for students of Classes 10 to 12 have been arranged in each school.
In colleges and universities, campus ambassadors have been appointed to motivate the first-time voters to ensure their participation in the electoral process.
The ambassadors are engaging students through street plays, graffiti, street corner meetings and games to highlight the importance of voting and of Parliament.
Also, 'Chunav Pathshalas' have been set up at a majority of polling stations where poll officials are motivating locals to contribute their bit for a better nation by exercising their franchise, despite the distance they may have to travel to do so.
"I am also motivating my friends not to miss an opportunity to exercise their right to franchise even if they have to travel specially to their hometown," Neha Sud, a well-clued in 18-year-old college student, told IANS here.
The election official added the focus of the campaigns is to encourage voters to come out in maximum numbes and exercise their franchise on May 19 for four Lok Sabha seats.
A record 75.61 per cent of the 50.25 lakh voters, the highest in four decades, exercised their franchise in the November 2017 Assembly elections.
In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the state saw a 64 per cent turnout.
Interestingly, women voters outnumber men in the state that has 68 Assembly and four Lok Sabha seats.
The election official said the percentage of women voters exercising their franchise in the state has been on the rise since the 1993 Assembly elections. "For almost two decades, the women voters outnumbered men and they hold the key to the formation of a government," the official pointed out.
The turnout of women (71.10 per cent) was almost similar to that of men (71.90 per cent) in 1993. After that, the turnout of women voters started exceeding that of men.
Social scientists attribute this to the higher literacy and awareness drives by the Election Commission.
Chief Electoral Officer Devesh Kumar said the state emerged the top performer in new enrolments.
About 116,000 new voters were registered in the past two-three months. About 250,000 youth have been identified as eligible voters and their registration will be completed by April 19.
Two polling stations exclusively for women have been set up in each Assembly constituency.
Of the 51.59 lakh voters in the state, 26,45,584 are males and 25,13,357 are females.
(Vishal Gulati can be reached at email@example.com)
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