Finally, the much awaited day is here, when Chennai is all set to choose its representatives in the 17th Lok Sabha. Parliamentary elections this time are distinctive in the fact the median age of the electorate is 27.9 years. For the first time in the history of India, forty-five million young people have become eligible to vote as they turn 18 and have been added to India’s electoral rolls since 2014 (according to ECI data of 2018). Needless to say, therefore, that how India’s young population votes will be one of the major deciding factors in the ongoing elections.
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Young India is an aware electorate, has a global perspective and concrete expectations of how our nation should position itself and the issues it should prioritise. Tamil Nadu students, for example, set a precedent uniting for a common cause when they took to the streets demanding the uplifting of a ban on the traditional jallikattu sport.
So, today, when this generation comes out to make a choice for the nation at a critical juncture in history, it is important to hear their voices: What does young India expect from their representatives in the Parliament and the new leader of the party that wins the elections?
We spoke to a few young people from Chennai — those who live in the city and will vote here, as well as a few who are abroad but have dreams for the nation; here’s what they shared on what they would like the new elected Members of Parliament to address:
Ajith Kumar, Network Technician
The first priority for the leader of the party that wins the elections should be to create jobs. There are no jobs even for the educated. After completing B.Sc. in Computer Sc, I did not get a job and our financial situation does not permit me to study further. My parents came to Chennai, selling their lands in our village, to educate the four of us. My father is a mason and my mother, a domestic help. We need a leader to develop villages that lack basic amenities like water, good roads and farmers need a huge support to grow crops for the nation. Unless we have a leader and a party that wants to bring about real welfare for the people, young people like us will languish in poverty and misery.
Arya Rajam, Author
It will be great to have patriotic men and women untainted by corruption serving as our country’s leaders. Politicians who do not speak about caste, community and religion as though that defines a person, are needed. Caste and community are evils that divide us. The poorest of people in villages must get basic facilities like toilets and access to drinking water. Government schools must surge in quality.
As a creative person and an author, I feel the current climate of intense censorship is beyond outrageous. Free speech in India is dead. The new leaders must allow all forms of art to flourish without censorship or art in India will start dying. This ideal India may not be possible, but I still want to dream about it.
Divya Satyaraj, nutritionist
As a therapist and nutritionist, my focus is on the Health Ministry, the health sector and the Mid-Day Meal Programme. I feel there is a lot of scope for improvement in the health sector. I am very disappointed with the way government hospitals in Tamil Nadu are functioning. They don’t even have blankets and pillows and patients have to literally bribe the staff for these. There has to be a proper system to maintain government hospitals. People don’t get vaccines even if there is an epidemic. Pharmacies, especially those in rural areas sell medicines that have expired. In countries like Singapore such things don’t happen because the punishment is severe.
As therapists who look at developmental health, we find that most children are undernourished. People’s health is the first priority because only healthy people can be productive. We need a leader who is self-motivated, selfless and works toward the welfare of the people without any motives.
Govarthini, Student of BE (Corres), part-time employee
It will be great if young people are given opportunities to stand in elections. They would understand the problems of the youth in our country. Many young people today are without jobs. Nobody gets jobs that match their qualifications. In government colleges, campus interviews are an eyewash. Presently, in Tamil Nadu there are only two major parties and we are disillusioned by both. We are looking for a change.
Whichever party is elected should provide free education in schools and colleges. For my brother, they are asking for an annual fee of 45 K for college. I studied in a government college that has a nominal fee structure. The new party should have a fee limit for both private and government colleges.
Another issue I feel very strongly about is, why should people wait when our elected members commute on the roads? We have voted for them and they should wait for people. Why should we give the political leaders more importance than our army men who do not get any support or respect from them?
Karthik, M.Sc. (Computer Sc), Swiggy Delivery Boy
I didn’t get a suitable job after my post-graduation and I have taken up this job as a stop gap arrangement. Leaders should know what is possible and promise only what they can do. I have faith in Kamal Hassan who has promised that he will create 50 lakh jobs and has also announced how he would do this in five years. The leader and his party members must be accessible to the public to listen to their woes and address them, something which is impossible now.
The new government should also enforce strict law and order and bring rigorous punishment for theft. While corruption, poverty and education are main concerns, if they can begin by creating jobs, it would be a step to bring down poverty.
Namrata Amarnath, Lawyer, Anti-Money Laundering Officer, Amsterdam
I would ideally expect the winning party to show a strong support for secularism by eliminating religious ideologies from general governance. With the rampant increase in atrocities and crimes again women in India, the Parliamentary representatives should not only advocate stringent laws penalizing such crimes, but should also focus on developing a transparent mechanism of enforcing such laws.
I also hope that the government focuses on social and public welfare, by implementing robust welfare schemes, providing accessible and better healthcare, and increasing unemployment benefits for individuals. While this could be accomplished by revising tax rates for corporates, entrepreneurs, and high-income individuals, a more lucrative way of achieving this could be by diverting money generated from corruption towards such welfare schemes.
There should be a keen focus on combatting corruption at every layer on a large scale – and not on a microscopic scale. I would expect the government to therefore take up corruption as a core issue and develop and implement a long term mechanism to effectively tackle tax evasion and money laundering. If the level of corruption in India goes down, there will be significant increase in social and economic development.
Raunakh G, Secretary, India Turns Pink
Cancer will claim 9.6 million lives in the world this year and India’s share will be a worrying 8.17 per cent, warns the data recently released by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. Another report by Lancet predicts that cancer will be India’s second biggest killer after heart disease. Working for the cause of cancer, I would definitely expect to have a breast cancer free nation by 2030. Presently there is only one doctor treating 5000 patients per day. There is no government based Cancer Registry in Chennai. I wish Members of Parliament would execute the cancer registry as a government based entity. It is frightening to imagine where our nation will be if the incidence of cancer increases at this rate.
Rohit Krishnan, Student of UC Berkeley University History Doctoral Program
The most important thing I expect from the incoming political leadership, both in the Congress and BJP, as well as the broad spectrum of regional parties, is a basic recognition of the ecological crisis of this century. This is a crisis that threatens the well-being of the population, urban infrastructure and rural society, and perhaps the integrity of the Indian nation state itself.
Over the last several decades, there have been tangible improvements in the lives of many Indians, as well as an explosion in consumption. This path has left behind many, who are most vulnerable to the climatic crisis. We hear talk of India as a superpower by 20X0, of the prospects of growth and investment. It is therefore important that those with the knowledge and capacity to create such policies be given the resources and the voice they so desperately require.