Top industrialists like Ratan Tata, Anand Mahindra, Harsh Goenka and others will help Maharashtra State Election Commission (SEC) with its public awareness drive to ensure maximum voting in the coming civic elections.

In a unique initiative, the SEC sought these industrialists’ cooperation, who agreed to encourage and allow breaks to their employees to go out and vote in the elections, put up hoardings in their offices and factories to remind the staff of their duties as voters, besides ensuring awareness through their websites and social media networks.

Elections to 10 municipal corporations, 26 zila parishads and 283 panchayat samitis are slated for February 16 and 21.

State Election Commissioner Jageshwar S. Saharia said these renowned industrialists met him last week and discussed various means to ensure maximum voter turnout for the elections.

“We have noticed that compared with rural areas, voter turnout in urban areas is low. The SEC has initiated measures to arrest this trend and ensure participation of maximum voters,” Saharia said.

The SEC puts up banners, hoardings, organises street plays, awareness drives on community radios and among students, cooperative housing complexes, social media and other fora, he added.

“We are confident these and other voter awareness initiatives by the industrialists will go a long way to make voting a mass movement,” Saharia added.

Voting dates of February 16 and 21 are regular working days of Thursday and Tuesday respectively, and there are fears many employees could skip voting for this reason.

The much-anticipated, high-stakes elections will cover 25 of the state’s 36 districts and see participation of nearly 85 per cent of the electorate spread across 246 of the 288 assembly segments or around 41 of the 48 Lok Sabha constituencies.