By Ankit Dwivedi:
We are proud citizens of the world’s largest democracy. We love to roam around freely in the country, speak freely, live freely and be protected by the law; after all we have these rights. But, do we vote? It’s our duty.
To choose representatives and to have governance in accordance with our demands and expectations, we have an opportunity to vote. We have the privilege to have it as a right. Something for which a chunk of the world is struggling and fighting, with immense loss of life and property. But, do we really care?
It‘s a fact that voting percentages have not improved with the age of our democracy. Youth, considered to be the future of the nation, turns out to be least interested voter populace. It should be known that hardly 15-20% of people in the age of 18-19 are registered voters. Of the registered voters under the age of 25, very few participate in elections by casting a vote.
An irony is that illiterate or less literate people in villages or towns take part in voting in big numbers while the educated class resists coming out of their houses and standing in lines for voting. There is a class consciousness these days, considering voting something not meant for urban elites. The ‘Whatever be’ and ‘I don’t care’ mindset of economically and socially well-off classes is worrying. Low voting percentages in Bombay and Bangaluru in the previous General assembly elections should be taken as a matter of shame. People prefer an outing, a movie, a get together or chilling on a holiday rather than going out to vote, to choose a government for five years.
For the intellectuals who were impatiently waiting for the literacy rates to go up and help the Indian democratic system get stronger, the trends unfortunately tell a different tale. In 1951, when the crude literacy rate stood at a meager 16.7%, the voting percentage was at a fairly good mark with 61.2% in 1952. It came out to be only 59.7% during general elections 2009 despite Indian literacy rate crossing 75% in the 2011 census.
In quest of reasons for this poor performance, I found much inefficiency on the part of the system in addition to people’s negligence. The first-time voters find the voter registration process quite cumbersome and the official working in these departments is still traditional. While some voters do not find their names in voting lists, many have repetitive enrolling of names. Terror threats and booth capturing are also a major concern for people in Naxal affected states, thus making them the least polled areas.
A disrespect and disbelief in political parties and politicians is the chief reason for an individual to believe ‘my vote can’t bring a change’. Political parties as well as the civil society have done little to change this perception. On the other hand, political class has further weakened the electoral system by continuous vote-bank politics. With the advent of technology, we have also grown less social in real lives and more on online social networks. Politics, which once used to be most prominent topic of discussion within a group of people, is now considered a boring subject to be discussed on social networks and forums.
According to the Chief Election Commissioner, in a country like ours, compulsory voting is not feasible. There can’t be a mechanism for penalizing such a big section of the population. The only way to develop democracy is to increase people’s participation in the electoral process through education and awareness. To prevent criminals from taking over political power, people need to vote honest and clean candidates.
The success of recent mass protests in India for greater transparency and anti corruption leads us to believe that people come together at times of anger and grief. Large scale involvement of contemporary youth in these movements signifies that they are a potential power force. The only thing to observe now is whether people of the five states undergoing state assembly elections come out to vote as they came out to point fingers and protest against a chosen government. I would vote. Would you?