The Telegraph
Saturday , April 5 , 2014
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Rustic teacher takes to Facebook with lessons on polls

- Govt introduces Mastersahab Patnahiya on social networking site to make urban electorate aware of rights

A rustic teacher with a sense of humour and on a mission to educate voters on their rights is scorching Facebook ahead of elections.

The district administration has launched a Facebook account — Mastersahab Patnahiya — in which the character of “mastersahab” is giving people information about every kind of details related to the Lok Sabha elections.

According to the district administration, the initiative has been taken for the first time. Earlier, the administration never took the help of social networking sites to make people aware of their voting rights.

Sources in the office said noted cartoonists were involved in designing the character of “mastersahab” on Facebook.

What is interesting about the character of Mastersahab is that it makes people aware about election-related things in the local dialect — a mix of Bhojpuri and Hindi.

The look of “mastersahab” is inspired from the village teacher as he could be seen dressed in dhoti and kurta on FB. The district administration has also put up hoardings related to the Facebook page “Mastersahab Patnahiya” in some of the public places.

Speaking about the intention behind the initiative, Ravibhushan Sahay, the district public relations officer, said: “We wanted to do something to attract voters. So we decided to build the character of Mastersahab on Facebook. Mastersahab, the cartoon character, encourages people to exercise their electoral rights. We have kept the look of Mastersahab rustic and he uses only local language.”

Sahay added: “All this has been done to induce interest of people in the electoral regime. We have made sure to post different kinds of election-related information on the Facebook page from time to time. But all the information has been given in a typical style. For example, he says “18 se babu bhaile par, ta vote ke ho gelvo adhikar’ (After crossing 18, you become eligible for voting).”

The FB account also has interesting lines: “Khair rastava bhuloge to koiyo local aadmi bata dega, lekin vote ke din apan matdan kendra bhulaye to panch saal bade hi mauka milega (If you forget your way, any resident would tell you the right way. But if you forget about the polling centre on the voting date, you would get the right of voting only after five years), Khali Facebook mein interest loge to kaise hoga babua, ketna aasan to hai, bharat nirvachan aayog ka website — (If you only take interest in Facebook, then nothing would happen. The website of the Election Commission of India is very easy to check —”

Sahay added: “We want to put this in voters’ minds that there is something important on April 17. They have to turn up at the polling booths on April 17, the day Patna goes to the polls. We have high expectations from the Facebook account of Mastersahab Patnahiya. It would definitely encourage voters to exercise their electoral rights.”

Sources said the district administration’s initiative to encourage urban voters through Facebook was that during the last elections, the performance of rural voters was better than the urban.

“In rural areas, 62 per cent people cast their votes in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, while in the urban areas, only 32 per cent people exercised their electoral rights. This is the reason we thought to do something different to encourage the urban voters about their electoral rights. However, we are also encouraging our rural voters by organising street plays and other programmes,” said Sahay.

Rashmi Priya, a BA Part-II student at Magadh Mahila College, said it was a very interesting step taken by a government office.

“Mastersahab Patnahiya is hilarious but catchy. The way the cartoon character Mastersahab sends out messages is interesting and often stays in the head. It becomes interesting because he uses Bhojpuri in his gyaan,” she said.