Broken roads, the rotten education system, pollution, overall corruption and the security of people were key concerns of Jalandhar’s young voters, gathered as part of a Hindustan Times discussion held on Saturday. Riots were not an issue — “No riots happened in Punjab as such,” said some participants — yet the thrust remained on the national leaders rather than the actual candidates.
JOBS, PHOREN DREAMS
On the employment front, the gathering averred that even if government could obviously not be provided to everyone, private sector should be better regulated to curb exploitation.
“That will stop the youth from going abroad for just about any job,” said one, while another participant noted, “All of us look for white-collar jobs, but we need to give dignity to blue- and grey-collar jobs here too.” Ajay Kumar, a literature student, said, “I have a brother, PhD holder, who works at a college on ad hoc basis for Rs. 10,000 a month!”
On education and health, too, the participants batted for better standards in the government sector and proper regulation in private sector.
One cited the example of the Punjab Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS): “We all know how badly managed it is... Instead of giving PIMS in the hands of private individuals led by Akali minister Surjit Singh Rakhra, the government should have run it itself to create better standards, on a par with AIIMS in Delhi and the PGIMER in Chandigarh.
And even if it is given to a private trust, strict regulations should have been implemented for smooth functioning.”
CONTENTIOUS ON QUOTA
As the conversation moved to reservation in admission and jobs, there were many voices in favour of financial need as the basis. But Jeshtha Angrish, a psychology student, added: “Many of us still have a separate glass and plate for our domestic helps, who are usually from the so-called lower castes.”
She suggested quota be given on caste basis but not beyond three generations of a family. Partly agreeing, Ajay cited another stark reality, “When we had a Jat Sikh sarpanch, he got sewerage laid the part where ‘upper castes’ lived. The ‘ lehnda paasa’ (the sun-setting side in the west where ‘lower castes’ live) was ignored.”
The anti-incumbency against the Congress-led UPA’s central government and the state’s SAD-BJP regime was quite equal. SAD’s Pawan Kumar Tinu was seen as more accessible, while Chaudhary Santokh Singh of the Congress was seen as an “outsider”, in the sense that he is a replacement for sitting MP Mohinder Singh Kaypee who is fighting this time from Hoshiarpur. No one had heard of Jyoti Mann before she was announced as the AAP candidate.
PARTY OR NOTA
It was a divided house on party lines, but there were votaries of the NOTA (none of the above) option. Leader-wise, Congress’ Rahul Gandhi was dismissed as “dumb” and “mamma’s boy”, the BJP’s Narendra Modi was seen only as an alternative.
Asked about the riot taint on both BJP and Congress, the youngsters appeared not to care much as “riots did not happen here”. There were some who did not see AAP as an option as “governance is more important than mere allegations”. Resignation by AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal as Delhi CM after 49 days “deteriorated his image as a positive choice”, said Maninder Singh, an athlete.
Some said they admired Kejriwal and “the media is overhyping his resignation as the allencompassing negative point”, the entire gathering agreed that the AAP had fuelled their level of interest in politics now. “But we still do not have a positive alternative as such… leaders are only underlining others’ negatives,” said at least three participants.
Internet was not found a key factor in developing opinion, though most agreed that they got their information online. “Internet is fine, but has limited influence. As such, the urban youth is not the only deciding factor,” remarked Ajay.