The quality of higher education, lack of job opportunities and the easy access to drugs in Himachal Pradesh are major concerns of first-time voters in the state. During an interaction with Hindustan Times here on Sunday, most students in the group of 25 said they were eager to exercise their franchise in the May 7 Lok Sabha elections.
Some saw the NaMo wave and wanted to vote out what they termed was the “Gandhian era”, others were impressed by RaGa’s ‘aam aadmi’ avatar, a few stood by Arvind Kejriwal’s “revolutionary spirit” and some preferred the NOTA option to express their dissatisfaction with politicians’ blame game.
The youngsters were, however, unanimous that they would vote. Some suggested that online voting should be introduced. They shared their concern about having to migrate to Chandigarh, Delhi and Bangalore in search of better education and jobs, but maintained that their heart stayed in Himachal.
The disparity in opportunity within the state was apparent when students from the tribal belt such as Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti reminded their Shimla counterparts that they did not have access to even basic college education back home.
There is a government college in Spiti, said one student, but we don’t have adequate teachers. The same is the case with health services in the remote areas.
WORK OUTSIDE HIMACHAL
Barring two participants in the group, the rest looked to a career outside Himachal. Many looked forward to a career in computer sciences and teaching, but only one said she was preparing to become an entrepreneur in the tourism sector, which holds huge potential.
They agreed that a career in the central or state civil services was prestigious but felt the coaching required to prepare for the competition was feasible only if they moved to Delhi or Chandigarh.
Some chose to blame the casual attitude of the Himachal youth, particularly those from affluent families who own apple orchards or lodges, for the lack of awareness about job opportunities that their own state has to offer.
A couple of girls complained that their career prospects had been hampered due to the problem of women’s safety in bigger cities but were proud that Shimla was one of the safest places for women in the country.
The issue of corruption cropped up when they discussed their concern for environmental degradation in the hills.
Rampant commercialisation of land and the politician-builder nexus that is depleting the green cover in the name of development were issues they raised.