The main aim of the project is to target the youth voters and bring about an increase in their voter turnout. To start with one has to identify the problem. Why is the youth voter turnout so important? About 40% of the country is in the age group of 18-30 and that is a huge number. According to the Shri Umesh Sinha (CEO of Uttar Pradesh) “Aaj ki yuva peedhi jaatwaad aur dharm ke aadhar pe apne netaon ko nahin chunati, woh unki capability dekh kar vote deti hai.” I.e., it’s extremely important to enhance youth participation to decrease politics based on religion and caste. Also owing to their demographic dimensions the youth has to vote to ensure proper functioning of the democracy.
The second question that arose was why does the youth not vote? This question led to many others such as what factors influence the youth. In the course of answering the two questions I discovered that the society in which a youngster lives influences his decision to vote. So instead of focusing on youth I looked at the average voter turnout in India.
After identifying the problems, I moved on to trying to find a solution. For that I looked at other countries which are witnessing a low voter turnout and how they are trying to combat it. Various countries like Australia and Belgium have implemented compulsory voting. What was the outcome of this and whether it can be implemented in India is a part of this research. The north eastern states in India have a high voter turnout in comparison to the other states. A part of this paper focuses on that as well.
Among the problems that were identified were the criminalisation of politics, low voter interest and awareness in politics and the difficulty in getting a voter ID card made. Hence I will be looking at the impact of various Ad campaigns in previous years by political and private parties urging citizens to come out and vote the role of media and electoral reforms to increase accountability of politicians.
2.1 Literature Surveys
Since the subject was a new one for me, and completely unfamiliar I needed to do background research on the topic. For that I read newspaper articles and various papers relating to the topic. I got to know about the initiatives taken by the Election Commission of India to increase the voter turnout and various programmes that were targeting the youth voter.
The papers that I read explained reasons for voter apathy and what factor influence voters. Researches done in various other countries helped me get an idea of how they were trying to increase the voter turnout. After looking at the theoretical aspect of my project I went out for field visits to look at the implementation and effectiveness of the schemes proposed by the E.C.I.
Once I had done my field visits and surveys, I formed a list of questions and tried to find the answers to them by doing literature survey.
2.2. Field Visits
Literature survey left me with a lot of doubts regarding the implementation and effectiveness of schemes. I wanted to look at how the government official’s work, what anomalies occur at the ground level and how one can go about solving them.
While reading I realised that various factor come into play while influencing the voter. For that I went to meet representatives of media, of bureaucracy and the candidates standing for elections.
The field visits and the literature review of the topic gave me a second hand insight on the political awareness of youth. I wanted to know what prevented them from voting and what factor influenced their vote. For that I did the survey.
2.4Meetings and Interview:
I met my mentor once before the starting of the project. She introduced me to the topic and suggested some reading material. She informed me on various schemes that I could read up on. She has been guiding me and answering my doubts with great patience. Whenever I have faced a problem she has helped me out. For that I am extremely grateful to her.
To get feedback on my report and what areas I could work on
3. Current NGO and Govt. Efforts:
Worried by the voter turnout trend in India, the government has taken measures to try and increase it. The results were there for all to see in the recently held state elections.
Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) made a huge difference in the voter turnout for the elections held in 2012. It aims at 100% registration of all eligible citizens. It is a programme aimed at building voter awareness and improving the participation in elections.
The election commission has launched a new programme called YUVA –youth united for voter awareness. It has a 10 point strategy.
The ten point Strategy for YUVA
The E.C.I adopted a number of approaches, strategies and activities to increase the voter participation. Colleges, schools, youth volunteers and civil society groups collaborated with the government to ensure maximum participation. In SVEEP.
Painting competitions, Kite flying, essay writing and dramatics were used to spread the message of voting among the school and college students. Exhibition, hoarding, leaflets, cartoons, cinema slides, magic shows were used with good effect. Known personalities and icons sent out audio visual appeals asking people to vote.
To ensure registration of college students many colleges distribute the Voter ID registration Form (form 6) in their respective campuses and ensured that their students got the voter ID cards in the stipulated time. Similarly many banks also kept the Form 6 in their branches to facilitate voter enrolment few states in India have online filling of Form 6. IN the recent elections held in Goa, this particular initiative made it extremely easy for voters to register.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) prepares electoral rolls through a process of intensive revision where house-to-house enumeration is done and electors residing in each house are registered by official enumerators called Booth Level Officers (BLO). During this process, the BLOs go physically from door-to-door to collect the information about electors. There might be cases where the BLO has not come to your house or you may have missed him. As a voter, very few people know who the BLO of their area is.
To counteract that the E.C.I launched a know your BLO Campaign , the names of the BLO’s with their phone numbers and photographs have been put up on the election website and also published in the local newspapers . The E.C.I has launched a Facebook page and has initiated a SMS service to be utilized for the SVEEP campaign.
During the recently held election the E.C.I allowed people to use their voter slips and 14 other documents as ID proof in case someone had misplaced or lost their EPIC. The only condition being that their name should be on the electoral roll. This proved as a relief to many voters. Also for the first time, voters were allowed to drive to their respective booths. Previously the areas near the booths were cordoned off. This particular step proved highly effective in Uttar Pradesh.
Role of NGO’s, NSS and NCC
NSS worked in close collaboration with the Election Commission India to organise S.V.E.E.P activities in various colleges throughout the country. Many institutes had awareness drives regarding elections organised by NSS. An example is the Refusal Vote Awareness Campaign in IIT Delhi. Workshops were organised for the NSS heads to help them come up with ideas for mass participation of people in the campaign for increasing the turnout.
In a first volunteers of National Service Scheme (NSS) and cadets of National Cadet Corps (NCC) were employed for election duty. These volunteers were deployed outside the polling stations on election that to maintain discipline and ensure voter safety. The volunteers were deployed in polling stations with more than a 1000 voters. Training was given to them prior to the elections. Volunteers assisted elderly and physically challenged voters to reach the polling booth entrance. They assisted other voters by checking their names in alphabetical electoral roll locators provided outside the booth. In Kanpur many volunteers went door to door asking people to participate in the voting process.
NGOs have been doing their own bit as well. Lokniti, LokSatta, Awaaz, Kasauti are a few NGO’s that have been working to educate and motivate voters. Kasauti which is based in Kanpur had started with a mission to encourage people to vote and field worthy independent candidates. For this they hired a team of 40 youngsters who went to each ward and collected data regarding the voters and candidates. They evaluated each candidate on the basis of his worthiness and then educated the voters about it. Lokniti is a social research programme which monitors the working of the Indian democracy. It conducts surveys among voters and based on those findings it suggests a way ahead. LokSatta and Awaaz are Ngo’s which work in the field of increasing voter awareness.
Corporate have also taken up the cause of voter turnout. The Jaago re campaign designed by Tata Tea launched a movement to emphasise the importance of voting. Over 6 Lakh people pledged to vote.
As Mr. Jaipraksh Narayan said in his convocation address in the Benares Hindu University in 1970
“During the elections, falsehood and mutual abuse become rampant. So, the voters need to be acquainted with election manifestoes of political parties and also to be given authentic information about the life and work of candidates. If teachers and students of universities and colleges take this work in their hands honestly and are able to secure the co-operation of common citizens, it is possible to eliminate the prevailing weaknesses of our political life such as instability, opportunism, selfishness. Is it too much to expect this service from our educated community? It will be wrong to treat this work as equivalent to taking part in party politics, for this will truly be a noble task of social education.
Is it not surprising that when there is so much talk of political degeneration and corruption, in no constituency have the voters ever gathered together to condemn the corrupt practices of their representative. The ultimate control upon the legislators is the collective expression of their constituents. To realize this objective of national importance, voter’s education societies should be established all over the country.”
The yuva program as outlined in the flowchart is a series of ten steps which is used to not only increase the youth voter turnout but also to improve their awareness. It aims at making voting cool. its objective is to generate and enhance a sense of perceived benefits a new voter is likely to derive from voting .
Analyse the social environment
In 2009 general elections out of 543 members only about 13 percent, that is 71 were under 40 years.  The largest number came from Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. Studies have shown that a younger MP inspires young voters. This trend needs to be studied further because one can divide the youth into many subparts. These parts are women, literates and illiterate groups, minorities, employed and non-employed and many more. The objective of analysing the social environment was to identify and understand youth interest in politics. It is also useful when looking at the cultural and religious influences.
The way this is planned out is by starting out with desk research. Step two is to map and understand the different opinion of youth voters. Group discussion among young voters in the age group of 18 to 34 can be organised to seek their opinion on changes that are needed in the electoral process. Conducting interviews with about 10 percent of the young MP’s is also on the cards. Finally a comprehensive database on youth voters will be generated.
Building a Coalition of Youth Volunteers and Voters–Uniting Organizations of Youth Volunteers (OYVs)
The sign of a healthy and functioning democracy is the willing participation of youth of that country. Voting behaviour research says that those who have voted once are likely to vote again. India has vast human resources and a large number of organizations for youth voters. NSS, NYKS, NCC etc have together about 22 million youth volunteers. That is a considerable force. They can be the spearhead of the Enlightened Voter Movement.
Every year NSS organises 20,000 special camps which cover about 10,000 villages . NCC and Scouts and Guides organize about 15,000 youth camps and NYKS have 250,000 Youth Clubs spread all over the country and in almost all Panchayats. If voting could be made a part of these organisations curriculum it would make a huge difference.
The objective of this step is to promote civic responsibility and political awareness. Tasks which can be carried out are to take steps for establishment of voter awareness units in NSS, NYKs, Bharat Scout and Guides, Youth Red Cross, NCC, Youth Hostel Association, YWCA, YMCA and similar youth organizations and networks and Association of Indian Universities. Establish targets for each youth volunteer unit to cover new voter and nonvoting youth in the general elciton2014.
Focusing on “Low-Voter-Turn-out” Constituencies
The objective of this step is to turn the spot light on low voter turnout areas. It aims to increase the voter participation and to create additional platforms for engaging the youth. The final objective is to ensure 100% voter participation at panchayat, assembly and parliamentary levels. Taking up constituencies can ensure highly individualised attention to all the voters.
This will help in identifying ideas that can motivate and reach out to the non voters. Creating opportunities for youth to participate n the community life and initiation of measures to reinforce the role of young people as decision-making agents where they are unable to choose or decide. Youth friendly teams and cultural groups will be created so as to provide information to every youngster who needs it.
Increasing Participation of Young Women:
Women in India got the voting rights alongside men soon after Independence. Thanks to 73rd and 74th amendment to Indian constitution, now, there are about 1.2 million women representatives in the elected bodies of the local self governments in villages and towns. Today there are only 49 women parliamentarians out of which only 17 are below 40.
Why does this happen? Are there social inhibitions which prevent them from participating in the electoral process, or is it because they don’t have any freedom to think on their own, or is it because they don’t have any opportunities to participate in the public life. If the women are given a chance and empowered will they venture into the decision making process?
Yes. This has been proved in the recent Bihar elections where the voting percentage of women outstripped that of men by about 10%. Many of these women had come to vote independently defying all the social norms.
The significant point here is that Bihar had reserved half the seats for all panchayat and local self government as compared to other states which had only one third. Hence it can be seen that if women are made aware and their interest is aroused they will come out and participate in the voting process. Thus the tasks that lie ahead are informing and educating women about the values of voting and participation in democracy. Encouragement should be provided for them to air their political views. This could involve training in policy planning, campaign management, social change, lobbying and leadership.
Train Angangwadi Workers, ASHA workers and Mahila Mandals, Women’s SHG Groups, workers in women empowerment programs for motivating young women for voting and also informing them about the benefits of voting. Discussion groups amongst these organisation s should be started and could lead to enhanced political awareness. Panchayats should collaborate with ngo’s and schools in their villages to empower their young women.
Promoting Urban Youth/ Netizens’ Participation in Elections.
In India about 36% of all eligible voters are the youth. And almost a third of them are on the web. According to a report literate youth in urban and semi-urban India devotes on an average 98 minutes daily viewing TV, 32 minutes reading news paper, 44 minutes going through life style magazines, 70 minutes surfing the net and 61 minutes  listening to radio. A A recent I-Cube Report published by Internet and Mobile Association of India and IMRB (2011) states that now almost 10% of India’s population are internet users (close to 121 million).
Figure 7 : Usage of internet by youth, Data: latest report of YUVA
Out of the about 90 million are considered to access the net at least once a month. By 2015, about 2,50,00 Panchayats in the country will be connected to internet. Hence online ads and YouTube videos can be used to disseminate election based information. Use SMS online blogs and social networking sites like ‘Facebook’ and ‘Myspace’ to reach out to the young voters including first timers.
The SVEEP Division of the election commission should be encouraged to support and utilise different parts of media in different part of the countries. By the means of the internet, youngsters should have a platform to put and get answers to their questions. Promoting skills in n phone-canvassing is also an option. This is known to have increased young voter turn-out in many democratic countries.
Developing a Cultural Habit of Voting
Youth is the period when the mind is malleable and when a person develops his personal, occupational and sexual ideologies. Thus, during this period young people could be sensitized to develop habits of voting and encouraged to work as proactive defenders of democracy. They can be motivated to participate actively in politics. They need to learn its importance and inculcate it in their culture .They should be educated about the entire voting procedure.