Millennium Post

Centenarian voters to inspire young in Bengal

A group of centenarians whose enthusiasm to vote has not been affected by their restricted mobility due to old age are being portrayed as role models for the younger generation so that they exercise their franchise.

During the ongoing West Bengal Assembly polls, South 24 Parganas district authorities have identified 1,086 voters in 31 seats who are at least a hundred years old.

"Despite their old age they have been going to vote but we have found that young voters not only in West Bengal but all over the country have the most apathy in participating in the democratic exercise," district electoral officer P B Salim said.

He said they have started a special initiative for all centenarian voters in the district.

"We will give them public recognition just outside the booth when they come to vote. They will be honoured with a shawl and flower bouquet," the official said.

Those elderly voters who cannot walk will be escorted inside the booth in wheelchairs.

Volunteers will also be present in polling stations to assist such voters and ensure they are able to cast their ballots on their own and in complete secrecy.

Their photos will be clicked and used for publicity material later on.

"The whole idea is to make them models for everyone else. If a 100-year-old woman can come then why can't a twenty-year-old? The youth talk a lot on social and political issues on the social media but lag behind other age groups when it comes to their basic duty of voting," the IAS officer said.

Polling in South 24 Parganas will be held in the fifth phase on April 25.

Although West Bengal has traditionally seen one of the highest voter turnouts in India, apathy is being witnessed in urban areas.

In the 2011 assembly polls, only around 65.6 per cent voters from Kolkata had gone to the booths while the state average was much higher at (84.4 per cent).

In the 18-25 age-group, officials said the voter turnout ratio has been way below than the average. As a result, the Election Commission has been focusing on young voters particularly in its awareness campaigns. Even the state icon is Ananya, a young girl of 18 years who has been featured in all outdoor campaign materials as the face of the Election Commission.

In the second phase of ongoing polls, the final voter turnout was 83.05 per cent. While in the first two parts of phase one of polling on April 4 and 11, the final turnout was 84.22 per cent and 83.73 per cent.
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