I really feel fortunate enough to be a part of a campaign where I got the chance to meet and know the people from countryside – their issues, problems, lifestyles, and above everything, their “perception about election”. There’s hardly any ambiguity about how lack of education has been an impediment to their growth as informed and contributing stakeholders. These people are just oblivious to their rights and the worst part is they don’t even care much. Obviously a daunting task of arranging a square-meal for a family in a day leaves no time for them to think about such “trivial” things.
On a recent visit to a remote village in Western UP, called Nagla Jaitpur, I came across many inquisitive eyes staring right into the face of a so-called “educated and informed” citizen of a world’s largest democracy. I was not able to figure out whether those were filled with hopes or questions or suspicions about facing just another government officer appeared in the time of elections to pelt sweet yet meaningless words at them.
I will discretely take up the voting pattern in villages in a different post. Here, we were all set to talk about what voting is and how its going to make a difference in their life. To our surprise, we were greeted with strange responses. One of the most striking was when they uttered in unison “In Chunaavon se kya fark padta hai..Kaun sa Pradhaani ka chunaav hai..Hum Pradhaan chunte hain bas” (How does it even matter..This isn’t an election of Village Head..We elect our village head only). It was really difficult to finally convince, that’s what we believed, them that this election is equally important.
Though sounded convinced initially, many of them looked completely apathetic towards the voting exercise later. We had to find a way to make sure that the adults understand their responsibility and cast their vote. So we turned to kids. We were never sure how to rope them in but they were our last resort. While we were discussing this, one of our members said “Why not ask the kids only?” All the children took the responsibility and went aside to discuss how to make it possible.
After around 20 minutes of a chirpy discussion, those kids came to us and said “We have found a solution.” A 11-year old girl leading the bunch informed they’d devised a slogan, which is:
“Jab Tak Mummy-Papa Vote Daalne Nahi Jaayenge, Tab Tak Hum Sab Chote Bachche Khana Nahi Khayenge.” (Till Mom and Dad don’t go out to vote, we small kids won’t eat our food)
They really got excited when we patted their back for such an imposing slogan. They said they would write this slogan on each and every wall of the village as a reminder for their parents, They would stage a small anshan in their homes and break it only when their parents go out and vote. In fact, one girl highlighted the best part of this initiative. She said “this would compel our parents to go and vote right in the morning itself”.
This was a learning of its own kind for us which filled us with a sense of pride that our coming generation is already responsible and keen to make a difference. We will keep you posted about our experiences and of course seek suggestions from you on how we can make this initiative more effective.