NE youth determined to make a difference

New Delhi, March 12 (IANS): With the focus being on northeastern India for more than a year now, it is but natural that the youth of the region, particularly those who have come of age and will be voting for the first time in the April-May general elections, are determined to make a difference.

Their biggest lament is of being “ignored”, but they are firm to get their cause a louder voice. And this is no idle boast. A cross-section of those IANS spoke to were determined to go back home and cast their votes.

“The northeast hardly ever forms a part of the election agenda of the two major parties in the country. For them, our issues are not important. So it’s essential to vote for someone who can create an impact,” Kritika Chettri, a student at Hindu College, told IANS.

Chettri, who belongs to Darjeeling, feels that they need a party and candidate who are at least aware of their issues. “It has now become important to support only that party or candidate who is aware of the issues that concern us, which unfortunately the two major parties of the country are not,” Chettri added.

Echoing the feeling, Kelhoisilie Pienyu who comes from Nagaland, told IANS: “It is important to vote majorly to bring strong politicians who can represent us in the house.” Pienyu, who has earlier voted, however, felt that this time their issues require a voice following a spate of violent incidents in the past few months.

“It is the greatest lament of the people of the northeast that they are subjected to racial discrimination. This is due to ignorance and I strongly feel that this can be reduced effectively by introduction of northeast history and cultures in school textbooks,” Pienyu suggested.

With every young voice demanding strong laws against racism, a majority of the first time voters seem enthusiastic to exercise their right and make a difference. “We staged a lot of protests demanding strong anti-racism laws. However, it just remained a protest and no political party did anything about it. I will vote to select the candidate who will support our cause,” Caroline Maninee who is from Manipur and studying at Jawaharlal Nehru University, told IANS.

Ujjwal Pandey, a first time voter from Sikkim, told IANS that it was his duty to vote and if he doesn’t make the right choice now, it will impact him and his region for next five years. “That is our right and we should exercise it because it will impact our future. It is, therefore, important to choose a government which is sensitive in enforcing strong anti-racism laws,” Pandey said. He also felt that it was not enough to provide hostels for students. “What happens to the women who come here to work? Since back home there are not enough opportunities in our region they are forced to come here,” Pandey added.

While most of them want a redressal of issues they face, some felt that voting becomes important to bring a change back home. “Healthcare is what the people in the region are deprived of. So we need a government that can concentrate on equitable distribution of healthcare facilities,” Kuldeep Swargiary from Assam told IANS.

Swargiary, who is a doctor working here, added: “While healthcare is one, unemployment becomes another issue. We need a government who can utilise the resources for the benefit of people and not to fill their pockets.”

Similarly, Tsultrim Norbu Wangdi from Sikkim told IANS: “This is the time because after this we cannot complain. So for me the need is of a transparent government where people know about the money being spent.”

According to the Election Commission of India, 814 million people would be casting their votes to elect the 16th Lok Sabha. Of these, over 23 million are aged between 18 and 19 years, constituting 2.8 percent of the national electorate. The Election Commission of India reduced the voting age to 18 from 21 in March 1989.