In an endeavour to educate the voters and enhance their electoral participation during the Lok Sabha Elections 2019, SMART worked closely with the Election Commission of India(ECI). In lines with ECI’s campaign motto – Desh ka Mahatyohaar, the awareness programme was spearheaded by SMART. It spared no effort to reach out to the unreached populations and promote electoral participation of all the eligible voters by using the powerful tool of community radios (CRs).
In a first of its kind initiative, SMART engaged with 150 community radio stations, spread over 3 workshops, to create awareness by broadcasting programs on voter awareness and electoral education, and reached a population of around 2 crore. With a total of 695 episodes produced in 40 languages and dialects, around 23 States and an overall population of 30 Million covered using more than 350 outreach activities, SMART made history by a mammoth contribution to the festival of democracy i.e elections in the largest democracy of the world.
These CRs worked rigorously to sensitise the people about their electoral rights and responsibilities and also demystified the dynamics of EVM and VVPAT for the voters. SMART also helped inform the citizens about the electoral process, the online/offline tools, voter registration forms, electoral roll, etc. An efficient dissemination of necessary information regarding the voting booths, provisions for disabled and elderly, and apps developed by EC was done. The issues of the First Time Voters were also addressed thoroughly and steps were taken to enhance women’s participation in the elections. With an aggressive mobilisation strategy, every CR station made interesting posters, hosted rallies, reached out to college students, organised street plays, organised meetings with women’s groups and conducted quiz competitions.
Some of the distinguishable milestones achieved by the programme include (i) Radio Panchjanya in Karnataka produced 5 programmes in 5 different languages for reaching out to all the marginalized communities and small populations, even those who spoke and understood only one rare dialect. (ii) In hill stations, particularly in the state of Uttarakhand, information on polling booths at every 2 km distance helped in mobilising vehicles for those living beyond the mandated distance. This was possible because of an application submitted by Radio Henvalvani to the ECI and a newspaper report. (iii) In many areas, like Chanderi, the voter percentage increased; in places like Azamgarh, women who were not voting for several years were motivated by the CR to come out in large numbers. The new voters were delighted to get their EPIC within 15 days of applying online and thanked the stations for their support.