Voter Awareness Campaign to sensitise voters and candidates 

Background: 

After decentralisation of power, panchayats at three stages play crucial role in over all socio-economic development of people as well as nation. Over the years lots of Function, Fund and Functionaries is delegated to the panchayats. In Odisha where most of people live in rural areas local bodies have gained significant importance in the decentralisation process as people have authority to make their development projects. Crores of money is pumped into panchahayts with enormous power for infrastructure and livelihood development of people.   However, rampant corruption is seen in the local bodies due to ignorance of common people and lack honest and effective elected representatives to lead the development work. The elections are dominated by money and muscle power. The much desired over all development through panchayats is yet be realised. Keeping this in view, Odisha Shramajeebi Manch decided to launch a campaign called " Nirbachan Sachetan and Sankalpa Abhiyan" in its working areas.

The Objectives of campaign: 

  • To creating awareness among the people/Public/ Voter regarding importance of three tier local electoral system
  • To enhance peoples participation in voting system 
  • To aware to select effective people centric leaders 
  • To ensure smooth implementation/execution of our planned activities.
  • To get pre election commitment from contesting candidates

Activities carried out during the campaign: After long deliberation among the members of odisha sharamajibee manch, its member organisations and people from grass roots it was decided to carry out following activities during the campaign.

  1. Printing of cloth banners: There will be cloth banner which will mention the importance of panchahayat elections. The banner will also have section where it will be written that people promise to elect honest and effective candidates. It will be displayed during village meetings and local hats and people will be requested to sign on cloth banners
  2. Signature on "Declaration Paper":  it was realised to make the candidates answerable and accountable to voter before being elected. Therefore, it was decided to get written commitment (declaration paper) from the candidates where they candidates will write down in a paper to perform certain things after they won elections. Sample declaration paper was circulated among our villagers for the same
  3. "Khola Manch": An open platform will be organised where candidates will share their views and road map for development of their constituencies. The voter will get chance to directly interact with candidates. 
  4. Orientation for SHG and Youth Clubs: During the village meeting it was decided to involve the community based organsiations like SHGs and youth clubs of the villages to spread the importance of panchayat raj system, for free and fair elections. 
  5. Street Play: it is realised that street plays play crucial role in disseminating the information to larger public through entertainment means. So it was decided to perform street plays during our campaign in crowded places. The script and dialogues of play decided keeping in local context and our campaign objectives.

High lights of the action: 

  • The campaign was taken out in 13 districts of Odisha covering 1914 villages of 40 blocks. 
  • We could directly reach out to 54623 people during the campaign through village meetings.
  • Total 2444 citizens signed on cloth banners from 105 villages were obtained.
  • 4 numbers of street play in Koraput districts where more than 700 people witnessed and got the message of our campaign objectives.
  • 3725 nos of candidates contesting in various posts of three tier panchayat signed in a "Declaration Paper" from villagers approximately 444 villages. 
  • 13 khola Manch was organised in 13 blocks during the padayatra campaign where 89 candidates participated to share their views and 
  • Apart from that approximately 1500 leaplates were distributed and 146 wall writing made to spread voter and candidate's awareness. 

Outcome of the action: 

Panchayat elections are most sensitive elections in state. It became more sensitive when it comes to remote left wing extremism affected areas. In spite all hurdles we can manage to get success in the campaign. The process of voter awareness through the campaign has certainly helped even if in a small way to strength local governance. Voters could get the get message on need of good governance at panchayat level through visual and verbal methods during street plays and village meetings. It helped in informed voting. The elected candidates were made accountable even prior to elections. OSM & Local member organisation could build relationship with local organisation that was part of our campaign. Essence of true democracy was realised when people directly questioned their candidates. Candidate can internalise responsibility before & after election. Apart from that lots of common masses got to know about the roles & responsibility of PRI Members as well as theirs. A relationship is built with elected PRIs and also defeated candidates in the process.

 

Follow up action:  

Building long term friendly relationship with elected representatives for smooth and effective functioning of Panchayats raj process is one of our goal. So after elections we continue to engage with elected representatives to meet the aspirations of people. In this process we have conducted interface with elected representatives and our angathan members in districts like kandhamal and Nayagarh. It is realised that they also need guidance and support from local organisations to perfom better. The interface meeting with elected representatives will continue in all parts of our working areas.

Way Forward:  

  • Formation of District, Block, GP and Village Level Committees in our existing working areas wherever committees are yet to be formed
  • Formation of District, Block and GP committees in new intervention districts
  • Training & Capacity Building of all OSM, District and Block Level executive committee members on sanghathan functioning, financial policy and ownership of sanghathan 
  • Conduct of minimum two times meeting of General Body and Executive Body of OSM 
  • Ensuring financial sustainability of sanghathan through collection of annual membership. By end 2017 we plan to collect membership from 121950 HHs. 
  • Regular follow up to ensure that membership target is achieved.
  • Training Block Committee members on financial norms to give them maximum responsibility where we can pay JS Honorarium in selected blocks.
  • Internal audit on functions and financial matters of district level organisations 
  • Internal and external exposure of district level committee members 
  • Increasing Badge registration to cover up all maximum HH in our working villages 
  • Thematic area and issue wise demonstration at Block, District and State level whenever required.
  • One day state level Bidhan Sabha Gherao for right to safe drinking water and other burning issues. 
  • OSM would regularly do policy advocacy with policy administrators, policy makers, politicians, media personnel on thematic areas its working 
  • OSM would coordinated with Individual activists and likeminded organisations at district as well as state level to carry forward the policy advocacy work on right to work, food and safe drinking water
  • Ensuring transparency and accountability of sanghathan functioning and financial matters through sharing details of our activities and expenditure to all our stakeholders
  • Sanghathan Operational Mechanism to be tried in 8 selected Blocks  
  • Selected Jansathis will be paid from membership collected in selected Blocks. 

Case Study:

Villagers brought Drinking Water through Sangathan Intervention:

The Podapadar village is 2 km away from Hemgir Block of Sundargarh district.  The Sangram samiti, the member organisation of OSM has been working there from the starting.  To carry forward the development work the leading women of village formed unit of Sangram Samiti in the village. Like many other tribal villages of Sundaragrh, Podapadar also have severe drinking water problem.  The water available from two tube wells were not suitable for drinking. The water of tubewell was full of mad and turned yellowish in colour. Villagers use to filter water through cloths before using. The issue was brought to the light of local sangathan worker Kalyani Didi during the village meeting. 

It was decided during the meeting that a representatives of village committee would meet local sarapanch and BDO of Hemgir block on 28th October 2015 and request them to redress their problem. In the application by the villagers through sangathan letter pad it was demanded to install new tubewell in the village. 2 months passed but no action was initiated by Govt nor they got any assurance from givt officials. The villages committee again met administration on 5th January 2016 and 27th January 2026 respectively and reiterated the demand but again no response from Govt officials. Then villagers decided to demonstrate in front of GP on 9th Feb 2016.  During the demonstration villagers forced the Panchayat Executive Officer to give written assurance to solve the drinking water problem by 10th Feb 2016. The PEO came next day and put some bleaching power in the tub well not the exercise was futile. The village Committee leader Smt Surabati Kishan decided to take help of RTI. 

On 18th April 2016, Smt Kishan asked 3 questions in RTI. 1. What are the steps taken by GP to provide drinking water to Podapadar village? 2. By which date the problem will be solved? And finally when will GP take as action as per the written commitment during GP Gherao? Immediately after getting the RTI query the PEO arranged water supply through tanker 6th May onwards. Then new tube well was installed subsequently. The story does not end here, later on GP has initiated plan to ensure supply water. The project is under construction. The villagers are now regularly contributing to the sangathan work. They are active supporters of organisation and also contribute financially to the sangathan. Smt Surubati Kishan has sent example for the women of the local area. 

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