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Polls in the air, fest with a difference

- Manipur election office plans awareness drive during Yaoshang celebrations

Imphal, March 11: This year’s Yaoshang sports festival will carry a message for voters in Manipur — be sporting in participating in the Lok Sabha election.

Manipur chief electoral officer O. Nabakishore Singh is eyeing the Yaoshang sports season as an opportune time to create awareness among voters on the importance of taking part in the democratic process.

The Outer Manipur parliamentary constituency is scheduled to go to the hustings on April 9 and the Inner Manipur constituency on April 17. The turnout in the 2009 Lok Sabha election was 77.3 per cent.

“We want hundred per cent participation as this time there will be None Of The Above button. We have convened a meeting of the election office and local clubs at the conference hall of the south block of the Secretariat on March 14 to finalise the plan,” Nabakishore Singh said.

Local clubs in the four valley districts of the state have made sporting activities an annual event during Holi, called Yaoshang in Manipuri.

Meiteis celebrate Yaoshang for full five days and the local clubs organise “Yaoshang sports festival” with competitions and entertainment programmes.

People of all ages take part in the competitions. While children as young as seven years take part in athletics events, homemakers take part in competitions like slow cycle race and mou lamjel (race for housewives). Besides, there are entertaining events like blind hit, climbing plantain tree, sack race as well as mathematics competitions.

The children compete on the local grounds as their parents and family members look on. Clubs which do not have grounds big enough for longer races like 400m or 1,000m use highways for the competitions.

Nabakishore Singh and his team are planning to distribute T-shirts embossed with election phrases to the local clubs for use by competitors during the Yaoshang sports festivals.

“We believe this will be effective in creating awareness among voters,” the CEO said.

The election official is also planning to put up banners, carrying messages of voters’ participation in the electoral process, at the venues of the sporting activities.

Local clubs have welcomed the move. W. Ratan, secretary of a local club in Imphal West district, said, “This is a good idea. Children will be happy to wear the T-shirts while observers will realise how important voting is to strengthen democracy.”

According to the electoral rolls published in January this year, there are 17,47,889 voters, including 8,86,473 females in the state. They will cast their votes in 2,662 polling stations. The number of voters is increasing as the process of inclusion of left-outs is still on.