A large number of youngsters proudly exercised their franchise at various polling stations in Ludhiana Parliamentary constituency on Wednesday.
The election commission awarding first-time voters with appreciation certificates for voting was the icing on the cake for them. However, a few first-time voters, who did not get the certificates, were also left disappointed.
Nineteen-year-old Mandeep Kaur, at a polling booth in Adarsh Shiksha School on Tibba Road, said, “After casting my vote, the polling staff issued me an appreciation certificate. It was a very proud moment for me as I cast my vote to strengthen the democracy.”
The certificates were also given in rural areas where the first-time voters cast their votes with full enthusiasm.
When HT visited one of the booths at Arya Senior Secondary School - polling station 111- youth were seeing flaunting their inked finger and waiving the victory sign.
Sandeep Kaur, 18, a BTech student from Guru Nanak Dev Engineering College, said, “I am very excited and happy to have cast my vote for the first time. It is our right to vote and elect a good leader for better future of our country.”
Meenu Rani, 20, a college student, said that since morning she was calling her friends and relatives to go and vote.
Meanwhile, the staff at some polling booths was not aware about the appreciation certificates. Some of the first-time voters also claimed that they got the certificates only when they demanded them from the polling staff.
After casting his vote for the first time at Government Institute of Textile Chemistry & Knitting Technology in Daresi Ludhiana (under Ludhiana Central constituency), 19-year-old Vishal Kumar said, “I did not know about the appreciation certificate for first-time voters. No official informed me about it when I cast my vote.”
On being asked, the polling officials at polling booth number 55 at same polling station, said, “We were not provided appreciation certificates for first-time voters.”
The situation was similar at Sargodha Public Senior Secondary School, Field Ganj. A polling official said, “Three first-time voters demanded appreciation certificate from us. But we did not have them.”
Assistant Returning Officer, Ludhiana central, Kuldeep Singh Vaid could not be contacted. Earlier, Ludhiana district administration had announced that certificates will be issued to all first-time voters (aged 18-19) after getting their fingers marked with the indelible ink.
Under the SVEEP (Systematic voters' education and electoral participation) campaign started by the
Election Commission of India for the Lok Sabha polls, Ludhiana was one of the few constituencies where these certificates were distributed to encourage first-time voters.
Youth returns from Canada to cast vote
The increased awareness about elections did not remain limited to Ludhiana, as people residing in other parts of the world specially came to India to cast vote.
Manmeet Singh Sekhon, a 19-year-old who lives in Canada and is pursuing BSc from Humber College, Toronto, and reached Ludhiana to cast his vote, said, “I am feeling really proud today as I am getting a chance to elect my favourite candidate to make our future better. These elections are important because there is a need to bring about a change in the system.”
Talking about his political awareness, he said he had always remained updated with what was going on in the country through the various news portals.
“I keep discussing about the political scenarios with my family over phone and they were, in fact, quite happy to know that I take so much interest in knowing about the candidates and decide to come back to cast my vote,” Sekhon added.
First-time voter with cerebral palsy makes his way to polling booth
Ailing from cerebral palsy, 19-year-old Varun Aggarwal, a first-time voter, found his way to the polling station to cast his vote. Varun, who is unable to walk without aid, asked his elder brother, Raman Aggarwal, to ferry him to the polling station.
His brother carried Aggarwal in his arms to the booth at Shashtri Vidya Mandir, Shivaji Nagar, where Varun cast his vote, but forgot to ask the polling officers about the appreciation certificate for first-time voters.
Varun, who after passing Class 12 from Sanatan Vidya Mandir School, Civil Lines, enrolled in Bachelor of Arts through distance education, said he was very excited about casting his vote for the first time.