If you are an office-bearer in a building or a township’s registered cooperative housing society, you could find yourself serving as a booth-level volunteer during the polling days very soon. A rather forced move by the Maharashtra government, it has declared that the Chairmen and Secretaries of Cooperative Housing Societies have to serve as volunteers and assist the electoral officers in ensuring sizeable voters turnout in the coming months.
What are likely outcomes of the bold decision?
In 2012, the Election Commission of India (ECI) had already approved the request to include booth level volunteers from other sections of the society. In every Gram Panchayat, municipal, state and parliamentary elections, the State Government will declare a new set of booth-level volunteers from close to 1 Lac cooperative societies in Maharashtra with 22 lac members, and push the voting numbers positively.
Roles and responsibilities of Chairman on election duty
- Assist the local electoral officer with rolls revision and register new voters in the list.
- Add, edit and delete new voters into the electoral rolls.
- Inform the election office about the relocation of a member of the society, and forward request for deletion of member’s name in case of death.
- Attend at least two annual meetings with local EIC officers and put up details of the meeting on the housing notice-boards.
Additional cash prizes and incentives will be rewarded to the best housing societies with highest voters’ turnout.
Was the move so necessary?
Yes, indeed! Considering the poor voters turnout in the metropolitan cities of Maharashtra like Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Nagpur and Aurangabad during the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections and subsequent state assembly elections in October, the same year, it was clear that citizens are skipping the democratic rights for other “miscellaneous reasons”—professional and personal, alike.
The only way to improve the voters’ turnout is to force responsibilities on the housing societies and involve the local population in the electoral system. Maharashtra boasts of very strong local body governance since its formation, boasting of 34 Zilla Parishads, 28000 Gram Panchayats, and 26 Municipal Corporations. Each local body is run by members elected democratically by the local citizens.
Freeing the teachers from their election duties?
Another reason why Maharashtra government took the decision to involve Chairman and secretaries in the election duty is to free the teachers. The Maharashtra government had exempted the Class X and Class XII teachers from election duties in 2014 Lok Sabha, relieving 1 lac teachers from the additional burden. For the sake of better governance and improve the efficiency of the systems, the electoral system required major reinforcements in terms of manpower.
Every election, teachers have to necessarily volunteer for election duties, even during the peak admission and examination seasons, thus testing their efficiency and accountability outside their professional domain.
The other side of the story
Most society managements are not happy with the additional burden, especially where only one or two office bearers are actually active in the daily routine. Resolving conflicts in the societies alone put off many Chairmen from taking up anything extra on behalf of the residents. Asking for more is definitely a big challenge.
Source: TOI Dated 15.10.2016