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5 Things Students Voting For The First Time Should Consider This Election Season

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“Let the Gods decide!”
-an infamous parameter used in the popular series Game of Thrones, for taking a decision.

Fortunately, the Indian democracy lets people decide.

With the approaching general elections, the month of April and May account for an important democratic year. One of the foundational elements of democracy lies in the concept of ‘one vote, one value,’ as it gives the chance to each citizen of India (of 18 years and above) to cast their vote, and hence their opinion. Expectedly, there were a lot of fresh registrations this year in the electoral list with a strong representation of the student community.

Students are an important voting sample as with the first-time excitement of voting, comes a greater responsibility of evaluation, learning and making a decision. Also because the student community is the hope for tomorrow, the voting choices made by the students are a strong reflection of the way the future of our country may be shaped. Consequently, this increases the need for keeping some things in mind before making a decision, and not, as with the literal religious politics in India, allowing the Gods to decide.

A group named #DeshKeLiye came to Azim Premji University on March 18. This is a group of various professionals who are doing the voluntary job of spreading awareness about the importance of voting and things one has to envision while voting. With authorization from the Election Commission of India, this group is also registering people for the electoral list. The session gave insight regarding what students must keep in mind while voting.

Being well aware of the constituency, to begin with, and having an understanding of the candidates contesting. There has to be a thorough knowledge about the manifesto of all the candidates, which gives a clear idea of all that is being sold to the citizens during elections. There are several points at which the student’s community must look while casting their vote, as these points would directly impact the development and strengthening of the students’ community as well as the society:

1) The Education Policy Of The Government

With the ongoing struggles of saving public universities from becoming autonomous, the education system is being deeply threatened. It has to be analysed whether the aspiring parties intend to work on this debate, as well as the policies regarding the fee structure of the universities. The quality of education is yet another domain which needs to be checked and to what extent do the policies envision improvement in the education sector? The students who will be voting would definitely be the ones pursuing higher education, but when we talk of education, the dialogue has to be inclusive of the primary education as well. Students must actively evaluate the extent of primary education which is kept in the election agendas.

2) The Future Of Employment

This is yet another thing which needs serious attention from all students, looking into the seriousness of the employment prospects of the contesting parties. Employment is in dire crisis, which is to be checked at priority.

3) Investment And Development Policies

This is a domain with which every citizen is associated. It is to be seen by the voting body to make a critical evaluation of the investment plans that the upcoming government makes. This is important to analyse that which part of the population is being targeted in future planning. Understanding this gives an idea if the rhetoric of the representatives are to please the economically strengthened class and enhancing the neo-liberal state of the country. Or whether the manifesto is populist to attract sympathy votes.

4) The Representatives’ Focus On Rural India

Although most college students are the results of modern education, they cannot ignore the level of focus that the electoral promises have on the agricultural maintenance of our country. Farmer suicide rates are a consistent issue in India. Farmers are essential for the survival of our country but today, seven major states of India see a 87.5% suicide rate amongst farmers. Hopefully, students belong to that population of India which bears the energy to understand and dedicate their problem-solving capacity to this issue.

5) Prioritising Issues That Matter

This blanket statement is an indication for each one of us to focus and figure out whether the claims made by the promises are about real issues mentioned above, or whether the dialogue is majorly about religious tensions. A large chunk of the population associates strongly with the Ram Mandir, a long-lived tussle. Even if religion is brought into play, it is to be evaluated whether the content is towards secularism or deepening the religious tension.

These points are still some of the many which a voter must keep in mind. Young minds have to prove that being young isn’t a mark of getting swayed in rhetorics easily. At this point of time, when even a month is not left for the elections, the voting power of each individual must not be misled in any emotional way, but the power of the vote must be exercised consciously with full awareness.

For the students, especially for those who are away from their native constituencies, there is a provision of updating their names in the electoral list of their current place of stay and can vote from the current constituencies. This can be done online on this website. All that needs to be uploaded here is a passport-sized photo, an address proof of the current place of stay and a birth certificate proof. The change of constituencies can be done by visiting Form 6 and Form 7 on the website.

To all the readers, it is a humble request to kindly not take election day as a holiday. It is much needed, in the scenario of dying dissent and misleading politics, for all of us to come out and exercise the power our one vote holds. Each vote counts and makes a difference, all that needs to be done is taking the effort to make the difference.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Priyanka Parashar for Mint via Getty Images.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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