Young voters queuing up at polling booths in western UP had varied concerns on their minds. Standing in line at Shabbirpur village in Saharanpur constituency, Meenu (19), Renu (23) and Nisha (19) said their foremost concern was unemployment.
Like many Dalit girls in their village, Meenu stopped going to school after the violence in May 2017. “The atmosphere was terrible, and unsafe for girls. The only girls’ school in the village is up to Class VIII,” she said.
Babita (21), who also stopped studying after Class X, said, “There is no employment for women here. We are hoping that with a change of government, something will come by.”
According to many first-time women voters, girls should be able to study till Class XII in the village, and get jobs. There was another concern: “We want to vote for peace, happiness and the end of our oppression,” said Renu.
Follow more election news here
Jobs and peace were again the concerns in Baghonwali village of Bijnor constituency, where most of the young men were preparing for government job recruitment. “We do not have much hope of getting jobs — most men in this village go to Saudi Arabia and work as labourers. But while voting, I had in mind the current threat to our Constitution,” said Mohammad Ahmed (21), who is pursuing a B.Tech degree. At Titawi village in Muzaffarnagar’s sugarcane belt, young men like Gaurav Rathi (24) echoed “farmer issues” of his elders.
The concerns of some young voters in Muzaffarnagar town’s Shiv Chowk were somewhat different. “The most important issue is national security. The government gave an instant response to the Pulwama attack, it is strengthening the Army. There has been development also — roads are better, people are getting more jobs,” said Gaurav Garg (25), who works in his family business.
But in Shabbirpur, 20-year old Sanjay Kumar was counting on change. “Voting is a right given to us by Babasaheb (Ambedkar) to change governments who don’t work for us and vote out oppression. If someone new comes into power, they will have to introduce something new for the people.”