MUMBAI: Actor and film maker Aamir Khan addressed the media at Mehboob Studio about an NGO called ADR (Association for Democratic Reforms) and launched a nationwide voter awareness campaign.
Khan, who is the face of the Lead India campaign, is also lending his support to ADR.
Khan says, “While on shoot at Bangalore IIM for my forthcoming film 3 Idiots, I met Trilochan Shastri who is the Dean of IIM Bangalore. He told me about this NGO called ADR, which is working towards reforming our democracy by raising awareness on the elections across the country. Our democracy is one of the biggest but I believe that it should not only be the biggest democracy but also the best democracy and that’s what ADR is working towards. They are trying to bring a positive change in our election system and our democratic system.”
ADR collects information like educational qualification, criminal records if any and wealth from the election commission on all poll candidates so the voting public knows exactly who they should vote for or who they are voting for.
Since the national elections are approaching, Shastri requested Khan to help take their message across to the people of India. Khan readily agreed as he says, “When I saw that these people are working together for such a noble cause I decided to be a part of it and help them in whatever way I could.”
Khan says that after being a part of ADR he has become more aware and it has sensitized him. He says, “I must have cast my vote thrice earlier in all these years and I never thought it important to find out who the candidates were, I just cast my vote without thinking. Since I live in Pali Hill whenever I voted earlier I always went straight and voted for the late Sunil Dutt without even bothering to find out how many people or who are the other people contesting from my constituency. This is not correct because as a responsible citizen, I should be aware as to how many people are standing for elections from my constituency, what are their names, educational qualification. I should know all the basic information and then cast my vote for whoever I want.”
Besides appearing in the ads himself, Khan’s company Aamir Khan Productions funded and made three public service ad films. He also roped in director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra to direct these films, Prasoon Joshi as creative head, Avinash Gowariker as still photographer and Shashi Sinha of Lodestar Media as media planner for the campaign, all of them too have worked free of cost for this campaign.
The ad campaign will be in several languages like Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali, Assamese and Oriya.
Says Khan, “Candidate information will be made available as and when it is filed. The Lok Sabha elections are being held in five phases with the polling dates being 16, 23, 30 April and 7, 13 May. Affidavit information is compiled roughly 10 days before polling day. This is the first time such an effort is being taken on an all India level.”
Khan requested media houses to make this campaign their own campaign and help make each Indian aware about this move. He added, “We need everyone’s strong support in this to help take the positive message across. ADR and I are not telling you who to choose as who you vote for is your prerogative but all we are saying is to make an informed choice while voting.”
On being questioned as to who he thinks as the perfect candidate Khan replied, “I would certainly like to vote for a leader who we can look up to, someone who has a strong character and a high level of integrity, somebody with a vision, somebody with intelligence, honesty, strength and somebody who also brings with them a political party whose each and every member stands for that and I don’t see that in front of me right now but I certainly look for that and hope for that.”
Khan says he does not want to get into politics himself as he says, “Everyone should follow their heart. My calling is my profession – acting and film making, which is my first love and I am passionate about. But yes, as a citizen of this country, I am concerned which is why I am get involved in something like this.”
The campaign also consists of print ads, internet and mobile communication. The television, print and radio campaign focuses on providing voters detailed information about candidates. Voters from all over India can access information with a toll free number(1-800-110-440): the helpline will be available from Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm or through SMS to MYNETA to 56070 to register and get all background information on their current MP and 2009 candidates. Information is also available on http://www.nationalelectionwatch.org/