From issues affecting their day- to- day life in Chandigarh to the country’s most debated political personalities, they have their views on all. Hindustan Times invited a group of youngsters — most of them first-time voters — to participate in an agenda discussion ‘Young India Votes’ for Chandigarh, on Saturday. Here are some key takeaways.
It began on a poignant note as Anjali Sharma and Ranjana Sharma, both teenaged media students, spoke for “freedom”. “We don’t want to live in fear... We need women’s security as top priority,” they said. Accountability of politicians and officials also emerged as a demand, linked with transparency and a corruption-free environment.
Other priorities were those found on most parties’ promise lists: Better sanitation in villages, robust public transport, and more jobs. Budding businessmen also sought less red tape and more sops for new business.
Most appeared relatively satisfied with the educational facilities and infrastructure in the main city, but the burden of government hospitals was underlined by conservationist Dheeraj Negi. “A visit to the PGI (PostGraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research) shows how badly our system needs to be upgraded,” he said.
CANDIDATE OR PARTY?
In favour of a “decisive” government, some participants suggested that Chandigarh should focus on electing a candidate whose party was likely to form the government. Those who were unwilling to make such a “compromise” were outnumbered.
“I am clear that an MP from the ruling party will get things done,” said management student Ishan Gambhir. But he was cautioned by budding lawyer Sarthi Vohra: “A stable government is needed, but we should not be voting for the wrong candidate just because we support a certain leader at the Centre.”
Reflecting a sense of disappointment and some practicality in choosing a “winnable” alternative, not many were willing to back the Aam Aadmi Party, and saw the BJP as the counter to a “corrupt” Congress.
As for candidates, AAP’s Gul Panag got some praise for taking up issues of slums and villages, and Kirron Kher of the BJP was noted for her tall promises at industry summits. Congress incumbent Pawan Kumar Bansal was “representative of an old style of politics”, and found little vocal support.
BJP’s Narendra Modi , Congress’ Rahul Gandhi and AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal clearly had more mindspace among these voters over local candidates.
From sewerage to national security, they touched upon a range of issues. For the girls, safety remained a primary demand. “Police have better presence in Chandigarh as compared to other places, but do we really trust them and approach them? I don’t think so,” said Ranjana, narrating a case of misbehaviour with a girl while police watched it from a distance.
The transport system came under scrutiny. “We need more buses, but even the autos need to go by meter and be safe for women,” said Anjali, who also shared an experience of harassment by an auto-rickshaw driver.
Most participants were pragmatic in their approach towards a metro rail — we may not actually need it for Chandigarh as such, but, considering the tricity that includes Panchkula and Mohali as well as the periphery, it becomes a requirement.
There was come consensus on slum rehabilitation as most youngsters advocated the need to build cheap houses for “workers who really run this city”. “It should also be ensured that more slums do not come up,” said Ranjana, adding that the rehab flats should be better built than those currently provided.
On reservation, opinion was evenly divided. Of the 14 attendees, seven pointed out that it should be on economic basis, not on caste considerations, while six said it should be done away with completely. Sahil Ratra also suggested that it could continue in rural areas, while Sanchit Mitta said quota should be given only up to certain generations.
“We never ask anybody about caste, and we share hostels, food with everyone… It is only when we apply for jobs that we realise the caste, thanks to quota,” added two participants. Ishan Gambhir was particularly incensed by the Congress promise for quota “even in private sector”.
ON NATIONAL SCENE
On the Kejriwal-Modi-Rahul debate, the key word remained ‘alternative’. While many praised Modi’s “Gujarat model”, the majority wanted to “move on” from the 2002 riots. “Riots happened, but his electoral victories after that also mean something!” remarked one, while another participant cited the riots of 1984 too. Rahul was dismissed for being an “undeserving heir to a dynasty” who was “just not clear enough about his agenda”.
Some pragmatism was brought in as the participants came to Kejriwal.
Most favoured Modi as the next prime minister but pointed out that he was only a “better choice than others, maybe not the best”. “Had we be given more choice by the Congress and other parties, it may not have been Modi. He is a choice because there is no other alternative,” said Ranjana.
For Kejriwal, his 49-day Delhi government was cited as a failure. Yet, a couple of vociferous supporters backed him, “He may have started chasing more power, but we still cannot vote for the Congress or BJP.” Weightlifter Sumit Dadwal gave credit to the AAP for at least “galvanising the youth”: “But AAP’s working style in Delhi put a question mark on it.” There was unanimity, however, that the participants, and youth at large, were more interested than ever in politics because of the “AAP movement”.
When asked about Facebook and other social media sites’ role in deciding their choice, Ishan remarked, “We do not necessarily get swayed by the Net… But it does provide valuable information.”
“It depends on what you want to know. I have visited websites that reveal the truth of Gujarat,” said one participant. “I made up my mind in favour of Modi by reading about him online,” remarked another.
What GenX wants in Chandigarh
Ensure women safety
I want my freedom and don’t want to live in fear. I want the government to ensure women’s security. Also, I want the government to be more approachable to the common people, particularly in times of dire need.
Anjali Sharma, 18, journalism student, documentary maker
Need non-corrupt MP
The city needs a representative who is loyal to his constituency and manifesto, which would mean no corruption. Overall growth and development is possible only in the absence of corruption.
Sarthi Vohra, 20, mgmt student; V-P of Aiesec, global youth exchange organisation
Create jobs in city
New industrial ventures should be brought to Chandigarh, so that youngsters don’t have to move out for jobs. The city has some economic zones, but there needs to be more work on creating employment.
Ishan Gambhir, 24, management student and dept topper
Revamp public transport
Political leaders should believe in working for the society and there should be no work paralysis. The public transport system in Chandigarh needs a revamp so that the city can breathe easy and realise its potential.
Sahil Ratra, 21, engineering student, online entrepreneur
No criminal background
Only those leaders should be elected who don’t have any criminal record. They should be friendly with the city residents and ensure that the policies are also on those lines. Complicated procedures need to be done away with.
Rathin Bhardwaj, 23, studying entrepreneurship, owns family trade unit
Cleanliness for tourism
We need to make the city grow as a tourist destination, but cleanliness is a major area of concern, especially at the popular spots. Roads need to be repaired and the city needs pollution-free zones. Infrastructure as a whole needs to be developed.
Ananya Rishi, 19, law student, had topped Panjab University entrance exam
There are a lot of good policies, but implementation is not happening. The system is in place, and with little changes we can do wonders. But we need leaders with the will. Beyond promises, we need proper implementation.
Amolak Singh, 24, physical education student, hockey player
Improve admn structure
The administrative set-up needs to be more structured. Rules for business owners need to be relaxed as business owners are not only generating employment but also providing services to the city and the region.
Mudit Chanana, 23, pursuing degree in entrepreneurship,runs manufacturing unit
Relax trade rules
Whoever gets elected must do away with the red tape as the first priority. A singlewindow clearance system should be followed, with transparency. Residents, particularly businessmen, are suffering due to the ineffective, cumbersome systems.
Ankit Mahajan, 25, pursuing degree in entrepreneurship, owns family business
Help outstation students
Better facilities are required for outstation people, students in particular, coming here for jobs or studies. More hostels and assistance in finding accommodation are needed. It is quite difficult to settle here initially; people of the region have no option.
Dheeraj Negi, 21, humanities student, runs ecology campaign
Look beyond cricket too
The government needs to put in more efforts to develop games other than cricket. There are budding players who do not get infrastructure. More coaches and scholarships should be made available across sports.
Sumit Dadwal, 23, management student, state-level weightlifter
I want the quota system in its current form to be abolished, and economic need should be taken as basis for reservation. Young talent should not suffer because of the quota system. Also, politicians should not hide from the people.
Ranjana Sharma, 19, journalism student, documentary maker
The city needs more entrepreneurs who can create jobs. There needs to be an ‘entrepreneur guidance cell’ to help startups. Further, to encourage new business particularly by the youth, we must have transparent policies.
Sanchit Matta, 21, engineering student, online entrepreneur
Industry a must
The city has some industry but there is no growth. The information technology (IT) industry, in particular, needs focus, which would mean better jobs and empowerment. Being a girl, I also would want to feel safe in my city.
Radhika Maini, 24, management student, basketball player
Platforms should be made available for those wanting to start their own businesses here. Talented youngsters capable of owing a business and providing employment to others should be encouraged. We need an effective entrepreneur development cell.
Hardik Dhamija, 22, engineer, runs online study service business