Ambikapur (Chhattisgarh), Nov 18: Encouraged by their initiatives, which resulted in high voter turnout in Naxal-hit areas, officers in Chhattisgarh's Chief Electoral Office are hopeful of a similar trend in 72 constituencies going to polls tomorrow.
A Systematic Voter Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP), which was started about three months back, is bringing results in most of the poll-bound areas. "Nodal officers have been appointed under SVEEP programme in every district. They really worked hard to make voters aware about their rights and importance of voting. It has got good results in the first phase of polls (held on November 11) mainly in Naxal areas. I am hopeful of large voter turn out in tomorrow's polls as well," Deputy CEO Alex Paul Menon said when asked about the initiative.
Menon, who was held hostage by Maoists last year for 12 days, was also pivotal in ensuring security in Naxal-hit Bastar region for polls held on November 11.
"Efforts under the guidance of Chief Electoral officer have given good results. It was a team work, which brought voters out of their homes to vote," said the officer on phone from Raipur.
Menon, a 2006 batch IAS officer of Chhattisgarh cadre, was abducted on April 21, 2012 by Maoists in Majhipara village in Sukma. He was released after 12 days. Menon said that the CEO office, in coordination with other officers, was conducting the SVEEP programme in a unique and innovative way.
The CEO office and district administration were putting large billboards along roads and giving advertisements on televisions and newspapers in rural and urban areas to make voters aware and encourage them to vote. Wall paintings and messages on 'Kuccha' houses, encouraging people to vote, can be seen here and in adjoining areas going to polls tomorrow. As many as 72 constituencies, including Naxal-affected Ambikapur, will go to polls tomorrow.
Another young IAS officer Priyanka Shukla, Chief Executive Officer (Zila Panchayat) of Rajnandgaon district, said, 'Pratigya'--a voter awareness programme in the district-- had resulted in good voter turnout during the first phase of polls.
The first phase of polls in the state on November 11 had covered 18 Assembly constituencies, a dozen in severely Naxal affected Bastar region, including Rajnandgaon.
"We made short films and held Mehndi (heena) and 'rangoli' competitions to encourage voters. Many more such activities were carried out to make voters aware about their voting rights," she told PTI from Rajnandgaon, Chief Minister Raman Singh's constituency.
Shukla, a 2009 batch IAS officer of Chhattisgarh cadre, said it was because of 'Pratigya' that people in Chando and Kherri villages, who had earlier announced a boycott of polls, decided to vote on November 11. She said many district officials in Chhattisgarh are following programmes on the lines of Pratigya.
"It was a dedicated effort by all officials. All of them really worked hard," said Shukla, who holds a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree. Officers have also formed pages on social networking sites Facebook to generate awareness on SVEEP campaign countrywide.
Programmes like 'Pratigya' and 'Aahvan' organised
While the Facebook page on Pratigya has over 5,800 likes, 'Sankalp' (SVEEP programme in Sarguja) has over 500 likes, 'Aahvan' (SVEEP programme in Rajasthan's Dausa) has over 250 likes and CEO Uttar Pradesh's SVEEP page has over 6,000 likes by people on the site.
Many more pages are likely to be formed by district administration throughout the country to generate awareness, official sources said.
"Young officials are doing their best to encourage people to vote and the results are amazing. I am hopeful of a good voter turnout in tomorrow's polls as well," an electoral official said.