Friday, 10 August 2012

The Young and The Comatose

The problem is the indifferent attitude of the youth towards their government and election process. Young people just don’t want to vote,” expressed Dr S Y Quraishi, Chief Election Commissioner.
The youth have often been touted as the beacon that will guide the country through the tumultuous period of strain that accompanies a nation’s acceleration from a developing to a developed country. The very premise on which the aspirations of a billion people are based is in the vigour and vitality of a youthful demography.
The 300 million golden figure is quoted instantly, aspersions are cast on the sustainability of the country or the preposterous theories are punctured. In this atmosphere of superfluous positivity, why do the youth depart for a weekend jamboree at the nearest tourist spot at the scent of an approaching election? Why do we still register dismal figures at the polling booth irrespective of it being a local, state or national election?
At first glance, it appears to be an open and shut case. It displays the apathy and the callousness of the youth when it comes to upholding the basic pillars of our democracy and exercising the right to vote enshrined by the constitution. It displays contempt for the parliamentary democracy and failure to recognise that the democracy is still in an extremely nascent and susceptible state of inception. It requires to be fortified by incubation in the temple of political engagement, activism and liaison.
Jay Mehta, a 20-year-old engineering student chooses to differ. “Maybe it’s because today’s youth is tired of the endless fighting, corruption and inefficiency, which has become the hallmark of Indian politics. We see the same promises delivered to us every election and the inability or the unwillingness of our leaders to fulfil the same,” he says. But shouldn’t that spur on the youth to elect someone who is reputable and can be trusted with their future? He retorts, “I think that the Indian youth today is simply bored of politics and this is on display when you see that many educated, college-going youth don’t even know the names of India’s President and Prime Minister. I think in order to get the youth interested in politics, there should be a revamp of the entire political system and it should be ensured that the promises made by the leaders should be delivered. For instance, a young IPS officer was killed when he tried to stop illegal mining. Instead of catching the accused, the political parties began a blame game. If an IPS officer’s murder goes unpunished then what hope can there be for the rest of us.”
You have to concede to the final. In spite of union pressure, the legal system laboriously plods along making the idea of any kind of enforceable and effective justice redundant. The shocking thing is when youth, speak of refurbishing the system exactly whom do they expect to do that? The politicos? Wasn’t that precisely what the youth were designated to do?
Siddarth Chandrasekaran makes a pithy observation, “Even I’ve been very perplexed by the situation. We go out on the streets in hordes when Anna wants us to. But not to vote!”
However, many try to hide behind the garb of procedure and the struggle it takes to procure a voter’s ID card.
Says Russel Shah, “The government must incentivise voting and streamline the procedure of registering to vote rather than making us run from one desk to another,” resonating most of the country’s youth.
Vrushali Ambedkar lands a stinging rebuke, “When you turn 18, no one lands up on your doorstep offering you a voter’s card but most of us still have it, don’t we? No one’s going to lay down the red carpet to ‘incentivise’ voting. The biggest incentive is a wellgoverned country where your rights are respected.”
Least to say, the political class is enjoying this display of sloth from the young change makers.
The closer you look, the more stark the problem appears. Statistics reaffirm our instincts. The voting percentage (from the registered youth voters) has been consistently a couple of notches below the national average. In fact, studies have shown that there is no discernible youth identity in the way India votes. Locality and gender reign supreme even when it comes to the youth voting trends. The lack of a radical political alternative by the youth who are perennially sobbing at political ostracism is keenly felt.
One author, with delightful candour, calls the Indian youth ‘The generation in coma’. They are wiser words from which we’ll do good to seek the underlying message. As we move away in an attempt to grasp the wider context, it seeps in that this isn’t necessarily an India-centric problem and it would be fair to say many developed nations have been acute victims too.
Canada has been recording a steady decline in youth voting figures and they tend to blame it on the trust deficit and lack of political astuteness, which has led to disillusionment among the youth.
A study by a US-based organisation shows that the major reason why the youth tend to skip voting is the lack of faith in the impact their vote can have. Its stupefying because it’s a well documented fact that in 2000, the presidential election in America was decided by a mere 537 people.
“Voting is not seen as a part of transition to adulthood by students,” the 2009 Youth Electoral Study (YES) stated. “Attending ‘schoolies’, obtaining a drivers license and leaving school are all far more important rites of passage. This is the root cause of the problem. The fundamental lacunae are the inability to value the right of enfranchisement. As highlighted by Richard Neimi, “political ideas—like the consumption of cigarettes and hard liquor—do not suddenly begin with one’s eighteenth birthday.”
Studies also draw light to the fact that the younger generation fails to see a direct connect between how their life pans out and which direction they vote. This dampens the motivation to vote. There is this school of thought that the political establishment hasn’t sought to attract the youth to the voting booth. While certainly a lot of media chatter has been bandied around, lack of concrete actions with specific reference to education and other issues concerning the youth can be a major thrust behind this disenchantment.
At the same time, the political class is happy at the lack of enthusiasm among the youth for they can continue in its march towards a veritable basket case.
Voting is a beautiful and rare thing. We are fortunate to have the right to vote. At the same time, it’s a responsibility and a commitment to your own future. Around the Gulf, you see people sacrificing their lives for the singular aim of a right to choose an adept government, a right we choose to disregard for the weekend getaway. As one political commentator so famously stated, ‘If you don’t vote, then, shut up.’
The time is still not lost. We’re passing through a unique moment in a country’s history where a majority of its demographic is full of youthful endeavour, vigour and vitality. Let’s fulfil the promise we carry rather than being relegated to being nothing but the ‘lost generation.

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