Son helped bureaucrat win top national award

M V Savithri must have silently thanked her son Mukul Manohar as she received the top national award for best electoral practices from President Pranab Mukherjee at Vigyan Bhavan here on Saturday.

Mukul’s idea to rope in engineering students to record poll proceedings came in handy for Savithri, when she managed the Assembly polls as the district election officer of Chamarajanagar in Karnataka. It has been recognised as an innovation by the Election Commission of India.

Savithri was awarded for innovation in technology use and infrastructure management during elections. She shared the top award with the district election officer of Kota in Rajasthan.

Karnataka also received an award for excellence in electoral management along with Delhi, Tripura and Rajasthan. Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka, Anil Kumar Jha, received the award, which was given to recognise significant improvement in electoral roll management system in the state, effective communication and systematic voters education and electoral participation, motivation of electors through media partnership and partnering with other state government departments. The ECI noted that not only last year’s Assembly polls were peaceful, but also the 71.74 per cent turnout was the highest in 35 years.   

Savithri was worried a lot in April last year as the poll day neared in Karnataka. She could not find enough videographers to be deployed at all polling stations across Chamarajanagar and the ones who were available were asking for fees that she was not authorised to spend.

“My son asked me why I was tense. I told him about the problem and he promptly suggested that we could involve the engineering students as volunteers to record the polling processes with webcams,” Savithri, now a senior official in the Religious and Charitable Endowments Department in the Karnataka Government, told Deccan Herald shortly before she received the award from the President on the occasion of National Voters Day here on Saturday.

Savithri found the idea interesting and discussed with other officials, who too found it worth trying as it would not involve additional expenses. “My son also gave me a demonstration to make me understand how much space a student would require in the polling station to record the process using the webcams,” she said.

They contacted the nearby engineering colleges and about 70 students from two institutions agreed to volunteer. They were given a brief training and provided with equipment before being sent out to the polling stations on the poll day, May 5, 2013.

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