Thursday, June 18, 2009

Students participate in election

Election campaigns and rallies are synonymous with the hustle and bustle of crowds. And the enterprising student community in Chennai has now spotted a golden opportunity lying in wait; one that could earn them a quick buck or two during the run up to the Lok Sabha elections. Several college students in the city are employed with part-time jobs, thanks to the workers of various political parties who hire them to distribute pamphlets, posters and even attend rallies in return for a token amount and loads of freebies.
Beaming with enthusiasm over his newfound vocation, G. Santosh, a final year student of Crescent Engineering College says, “Recently I came to know about a rally being held in the city. The political party organising it was in dire need of a packed audience. The clincher was that they were willing to pay a decent sum of money to those who attended it and those who helped bring in more crowds on their own. How can one afford to miss out on a chance like this? So I sent a message to all my friends asking them to spread the word and in no time, we were present at the rally with a battalion of our own.”
So how much do these students get paid and how’s their remuneration determined? It seems parties find students as an inexpensive and convenient means of publicising through word of mouth. Says Ramachandran Govindarajan, a third year student of Loyola College, “Students are willing to work even for meagre amounts. I have a large circle of friends who help me spread the party’s message. Recently, at one outing I was offered Rs 50 for every poster I stuck in the city. I find it as a great source for some pocket money for my weekend expenditure. At the same time, I believe that by creating awareness about my party, I contribute to the election process in my own way.”
But it’s not just students who have caught the election fever. Event management companies in the city have an up-to-date database of loyal students who can be relied on for such events. There are different categories under which the students can work. The remuneration for each differs according to the difficulty of the task and the skill-sets required. The most well paid students possess excellent communication skills and are capable of delivering short and effective lectures that come in handy during election rallies. On the other hand, the simpler tasks involve activities like crowd building – where students are hired as extras to fill up the audience during these campaigns.
Says Varun Kumar of Tri-star Event Management Tambaram, which ropes in students for such rallies, “Many students are youngsters who are into this just for the money. There are barely a handful of them who actually believe in the causes advocated by the party. The rate of hiring a student is about Rs100 per hour.”
Money and freebies apart, these rallies are seemingly free mini-banquets in themselves, which tempt quite a hungry lot. Says M. Murali, a first year student at GDH College, MM Nagar, “My friends and I take part in the rallies over the weekend as we get a free ride to the city and back (to my house in Chengelpet). Apart from getting time to laze around Marina Beach, we are also treated to some tasty biryani, which is given to us for free”

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