Youths comprise 4.5 per cent of the electorate and there are also first-time voters among them. Teenagers who had just turned 18 years of age can exercise their voting rights for the first time in their lives.
It comes both as a surprise and curiosity for these first time voters to familiarise themselves with the election process. Politics is new to these youngsters. The Election Department has sought to sensitise them of voting rights with a variety of youth-oriented activities.
There was constant encouragement by the department so that the first-timers get acclimatised with not only the electoral process but also familiarise them with their democratic rights. The Election Department collaborated with different media organisations using pop culture elements to do so.
The youngsters whom Sunday Shillong spoke to had a lot of opinions in mind though many of them are not familiar with the manifestos of various political parties.
With years of false promises made by politicians to earn votes the youths feel it is time that they work for a change.
Alexandria Kharshiing, college student and first time voter, says, “Despite all promises made in manifestos, I would like to point out some issues like economic development in trade and welfare and building community space that educates and employs people in the arts and entertainment field.”
“With more trade there would be more income and more industrial development. Also there should be less coming and going festivals which do not help at the grassroots level,” she adds.
When asked about her thoughts on candidates, Kharshiing says, “It is simply based on his actions, character, beliefs and purpose of why he chose to contest to implement change in society.”
Wanki Lyngdoh, first time voter from Mookaiaw constituency, says there is a lot of underdevelopment in her village.
“The candidate should help the poor and focus on education and employment. In our village, there are only four schools, three primary schools, one higher secondary school and no colleges. Since there is no college in the village, many don’t pursue further studies after matriculation because of financial problems. Also, there is no water connection and we have to get up at 3 am to fetch water.
“In our area, the main roads are full of potholes. Bylanes don’t have black topping and it is difficult walking during rainy season,” she adds.
Despite the inaction, Wanki, who works as a domestic help to run her family, has not given up hope and is determined to vote for the right candidate this time.
Pyniarbor Kharshiing, a 20-year-old BA student, says, “In most cases if anyone wins, he/she forgets all his/her promises. That is evident from the broken roads on the outskirts and numerous unresolved urban issues. There should be good infrastructure, and no mixing of religion with politics because India is a democratic country. The recent violence in Garo Hills is intolerable.”
Monmitre Pariat, Kharshiing’s friend says that political volatility is too much in Meghalaya.
“One becomes the Chief Minister and others try to pull him down. We should understand we are different people. Instead of blaming, we as voters should introspect to work towards change.”
Pariat says instead of bickering among themselves and blaming each other for failures, politicians from all parties should come together and work together for greater good. The young voter also emphasises the need for individuals to act responsibly. “Change will come only if we change ourselves.”
A quiet Riuwikie Dkhar, who studies Zoology, nods in agreement. He says other than becoming a teacher he sees no opportunity for himself in the state.
Two higher secondary science students said the candidates should focus on education.
“There is lack of engineering and medical colleges in the state which means we have to head outside. Also, infrastructure for primary education needs to be improved,” says the duo in unison.
Yanki Guru, a college student and first-time voter, says, “There should be more courses of study in higher education. And there should be good infrastructure to create jobs. Our state needs a medical college too.”
Rhea Subba, Bipasha Paul and their friends, who are second time voters are vocal about lack of jobs and awareness on career prospects among youths in the state. “We are students of Biotechnology but many people in the city do not even know what the subject is. So how can we expect job in this situation,” rues Paul.
Subba says there is a need for awareness programmes on various new age subjects and career counsellings in colleges. “Education infrastructure needs to be overhauled,” she concedes.
The young voters have given their verdict. But will their suggestions make our representatives alert or will they fall on deaf ears? Only time will say.