Siliguri, Apr 12 UNI | 4 months ago

Ahead of West Bengal's 1st phase election on April 17, the Election Commission launched a mascot to motivate the electors to cast ballot in large number for the world's largest democratic exercise.

Bengal's four of the 42 Lok Sabha seats - Coochbehar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling - in northern parts of the state would witness the first phase polling on April 17.

Over six million eligible voters would push button in some 7443 polling centers in four districts spreading from Coochbehar in Assam border to Chopra in North Dinajpur. Many of the 7443 polling stations nearly stationed in the border areas of Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal.

The EC said some 120 companies of central para-military forces are being dispatched for the four LS seats elections.

The EC today started a 'Sankalpa Patra' to mobilise voters to participate in the upcoming polls.

The Sankalpa Patra or pledge letter has been sent to parents via their wards by various schools under the ECI's directive and reads, "I am grateful to you for imparting education to me. Education will light up my life. It will also embolden me to make my decision according to my own will in keeping with the spirit of our democracy. I request you and other elders in the family to commit to yourself to vote in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections for the sake of our brighter future."

As part of this pledge, the district administration invited parents of wards studying in various schools to participate in an awareness programme to educate them further on voting rights. In one such programme at a Girls' Higher School, election awareness observer Alok Mishra told '

The Election Commission is worried about voter turnout in various places across the country as the count has been decreasing. In most places unlike here, total votes cast are only about 60 to 70 per cent.

'After conducting a survey, it was found out that most people are not interested in voting as they do not like the candidates. Hence, the option of the NOTA (None of the above) button has been started.'

He added, "The Election Commission wants to make voting a memorable experience and facilities such as toilets, water supply and shades to beat hot weather conditions are being provided so that people can vote without being under duress. We request people to vote in huge numbers and make this 16th Lok Sabha election a success."

On the other hand, Nepali Girls Higher Secondary School headmistress Aditi Ghosh addressed the parents by saying, "This is the first time that such an awareness programme is being held to make people aware of their voting rights. As citizens of this country, we should play a vital role in shaping our nation and this I believe can be achieved through exercising of franchise. This Sankalpa Patra is a request from a child to their parents to ensure the wards have a better future."

In the run-up to the first phase of the Lok Sabha polls in Bengal on April 17, the ECI has chosen the endearing and endangered Red Panda, synonymous with the Darjeeling hills, as the election mascot, which is also a historic first.

(Posted on 12-04-2014)