Youth voter participation

The highest ever seizure of inducements in the 75-year history of Lok Sabha elections is reflective of the increasing influence of money power in Indian elections.
Youth voter participation

The highest ever seizure of inducements in the 75-year history of Lok Sabha elections is reflective of the increasing influence of money power in Indian elections. About 45% of the seizures being drugs and narcotics also reveal an evil design by anti-Indian elements to cripple Indian democracy by targeting youth by luring them to drug addiction. Data relating to seizures shared by the Election Commission of India shows that the enforcement agencies have made a record seizure of over Rs4,650 crores even before the first round of polling is scheduled for April 19. Compared to this amount seized since March 1, total seizures during the entire Lok Sabha election in 2019 were to the tune of Rs 3,475 crore. The ECI data also shows that in January and February, the months preceding the official announcement of the LokSabha polls, countrywide seizures totaling another Rs 7,502 crore were recorded in the form of cash, liquor, drugs, precious metals, and freebies. Drug seizures accounted for approximately 75% of the total seizures during these two months. The Commission has also collaborated with the Directorate General of the Narcotics Control Bureau and its senior officials to identify key routes and corridors for drug trafficking and ensure effective countermeasures are in place. Over the past few years, significant seizures have been made during elections to state assemblies, including during the operation of the Model Code of Conduct in states like Gujarat, Punjab, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, and Mizoram, according to an official release issued by the Press Information Bureau. The seizures of drugs and narcotics, money, freebies, and other inducements cannot be seen in silos for the simple reason that drug and narcotic seizures are recorded throughout the year, even when there is no election. Apart from earning illicit money through drug trade and trafficking, the drug cartel’s objective is to cripple Indian youth so that they cannot take active participation in electoral democracy and contribute towards making it more vibrant. Of the total 96.88 crore registered voters, 19.74 crore are in the age group of 20 to 29 years, and 1.84 crore are first-time voters in the age group of 18 to 19 years. Ironically, less than 40% of eligible first-time voters (18–19 years old) have registered their names on electoral rolls. Growing reluctance among these youth to register as electors despite a sustained campaign by the ECI for their enrolment is a worrying trend. The National Comprehensive Survey conducted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment estimated that there are more than 60 million drug users in the country, and a large section of these users are in the age group of 10–17 years. This is indicative of the magnitude of the problem and perhaps also partly explains the lack of enthusiasm among more than 60% of first-time voters to take part in the electoral exercise. Youth in the age group of 15–29 years account for 27.2% in 2021, and this percentage is projected to decline to 22.7 by 2036. This implies that, though India has the largest youth population, the window of demographic dividend is also closing fast. If a large section of youth continues to fall prey to illicit drug traders and traffickers,then by the time the window of demographic dividend closes, India will have a huge burden of drug addiction to deal with disproportionate resources at its disposal to fund the budget of drug de-addiction programmes. Moreover, growing addiction will prevent the healthy participation of youth in the electoral democratic exercise and thereby deprive Indian democracy from flourishing with organic ideas full of youthful vigour. Attributing such reluctance only to their disillusionment in electoral politics due to the failure of a section of the elected representatives to fulfil their aspirations or parties and candidates adopting malpractices will be erroneous, even though these are some of the key factors influencing the decisions of the youth. The influence of drugs and narcotics behind such reluctance needs to be extensively studied with systematic surveying and data generation. Motivating youth to take part in the electoral exercise can also serve a dual purpose of empowering them to see through the conspiracy of international drug cartels to destroy the Indian economy and destabilise vibrant Indian democracy by keeping them away. It will also help young voters seek more commitment from their elected representatives in the state assemblies and in parliament to stringent law-making and adequate allocations of resources from drug demand reduction programmes so that young Indians in their age group gripped by the drug addiction menace can come out of it at the earliest and become equal partners in nation building. The Election Commission has identified “urban apathy and youth apathy” as “a cause for concern” as the commission strives to improve voter turnout. The society, more particularly the youth groups, needs to spread the ECI campaign aimed at increasing the participation of young voters in the Lok Sabha polls.

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