New voices, new choices: Haryana’s youth brigade votes with better education, job opportunities in mind - Hindustan Times
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New voices, new choices: Haryana’s youth brigade votes with better education, job opportunities in mind

By, Karnal
May 26, 2024 01:07 PM IST

The palpable excitement is visible on the face of Haryana’s first-time voters during the voting for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls

It’s 9 am on a sunny Saturday morning and the excitement to cast their first vote has pulled young voters to polling booths across the city.

First time voters show their inked fingers after casting their votes at a polling booth in Chautala village in Sirsa, Haryana. (ANI)
First time voters show their inked fingers after casting their votes at a polling booth in Chautala village in Sirsa, Haryana. (ANI)

Mridul Madaan, 22, waits for his turn outside the Dyal Singh Public School. As he hands out the identity cards to his family members heading into the booth, the palpable excitement is visible on his face.

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“At any other long weekend like this, we would have planned a getaway to Shimla, but this time is different. My father wanted me and my sister to be here and step out to vote for the first time with the family. While weekend vacations are exciting, being able to cast your first vote is not far behind,” he says.

His sister Simran, 23, has also made it a point to take her duty seriously.

Talking about the issues they have in mind as they cast their votes, Mridul says, “As an entrepreneur, I think there should be a more diverse market for startups with international opportunities. Besides, the standard of education should also improve, particularly at primary level.”

Behind the school, three voting booths have been set up at Dyal Singh College. Ansh Midha, another first-time voter, echoes the sentiment here as well.

“We are young and speak of issues that impact us. I’m also an entrepreneur and the major issue we face is funds, where the government could play an important role. Further, there should be more educational and work opportunities in the state, the lack of which is forcing my friends to migrate,” Midha said.

At the same booth, Anjali Batra, 24, is also exercising her right to franchise for the first time, keeping in mind her right to question the government.

“For our generation, being apolitical is in vogue but we are quick to target the government on social media. This is hypocritical. If you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to challenge or question the authorities. It was after decades of struggle that we gained independence and similar years of celebrations that ensured that we got our right to vote,” she said.

In Karnal, the district administration carried out far reaching efforts to increase voting percentage, targeting the young voters in particular.

As per the data provided by the district election office, of the total 21,04,229 voters in the Karnal parliamentary constituency, spanning across Karnal and Panipat districts, 46,078 are first-time electors.

The teams carried out signature campaigns to reach out to the young voters at colleges through selfie points, walls of democracy, banners and posters.

However, there is a sharp decline in voter turnout. As per the final figures, the approximate voting percentage stood at 61%, down from the 71.7% in 2019, the highest since 1996.

Pink booths a big hit

To honour the women voters, the election commission also earmarked five pink booths, one each in the five assembly segments falling under Karnal.

Booth number 152 of Government Girls Senior Secondary School in Prem Nagar, located just opposite the school where former chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar voted, saw long queues of voters throughout the whole day.

Officials said the booths were being looked after by all-women polling staff including three polling officers, a booth level officer, a presiding officer and an assistant presiding officer.

Waiting in the queue, Ridhi Sharma, 36, a government teacher said she was voting for the development of the country, while her relative Sunita, 61, responded on the contrary and was upset over the government for not approving colonies and providing basic facilities.

Kamla Devi, 87, from Friends Colony, who was in a wheelchair, also cast her vote at the booth. After voting, her daughter-in-law Sushma Chaudhary, appreciated the pink booth initiative, but complained that Devi was not given the facility to vote from home.

“Her zeal to vote in this scorching heat at 43° C forced us to bring her in the car. She is happy now that she has cast her vote,” Chaudhary said, while posing for a photo at the selfie booth.

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