Ahead of legislative assembly elections in Delhi, Chaitanya Prabhu, a law student at Mumbai University, has been visiting different colleges in the city armed with a voter’s manual.
Prabhu’s aim? Making voting a fun and easy exercise for young people.
“Voting must be an ongoing affair and not something you think about only during elections,” says Prabhu, a national-level athlete. He runs a website called ‘Mark Your Presence’ along with some friends.
The website provides easy links to register yourself as a voter, check the status of your voter ID card, know your local MLAs and more. So far, Prabhu has registered 10598 voters and has become the youngest person to do that.
The website was launched last year before the Lok Sabha elections and was frequently visited during the Maharashtra elections which were held in October.
Before the website went live, Prabhu would manually fill registration forms for his friends and help them with the process. However, over time, with more and more people asking for help, Prabhu decided to launch the website to be able to reach out to a wider audience. The Election Commission also backs him if he needs any help.
A lot of young people, he says, aren’t even aware of their constituency, local MLAs, wards and the basic electoral process. Once they know the basics, he says, they become curious about their own individual rights, politics and other things.
“A lot of my friends don’t even know the total number seats in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. They can’t name their local MLA, they don’t read the party manifesto. How will they know what their political beliefs and rights are, if they don’t know these things?” he said.
The exercise of voting, he says, is a first step towards gaining political awareness.
He has devised a tool called ‘ideology compass’ to help young people understand where they, as individuals, lie on the political spectrum. “It is basically a table that helps one match their individual beliefs with the political beliefs. I have seen that a lot of students admitted at being left-leaning but their compass showed they weren’t. It’s an interesting exercise,” he said.
Prabhu, along with his team, keeps mulling different ways to make voting a fun and easy exercise. During the Maharashtra elections, he tied up with local rappers to spread awareness on voting among young people in some areas in Mumbai.
He also keeps conducting fun and interactive sessions at schools and colleges. “I want to make it fun and cool and something that keeps us all on our toes all the time, so that we don’t stop at just registering ourselves. There’s more to just voting,” he said.
Social media is also another tool that helps him reach out to young voters.
The lack of awareness among the youth, he believes, is due to a school curriculum that doesn’t pay enough attention to elections and the processes that go with it. To that end, he will be reaching out to the NCERT with a suggestion to add a section on elections.
For him, it is not just about elections, but “about the next generation”.
Voter and candidate manual
Here’s the voter manual for the upcoming Delhi elections.
Featured image credit: YouTube screenshot