A call to first time voter youths

Neeraj Chopra
Sportspersons serve the Nation through their dedication, perseverance, and teamwork. It is both a privilege and a responsibility to wear the National colours, whether at home or abroad. But as sportspersons, and young Indians, a part of the world’s most vibrant democracy, there is another privilege we aspire to-that of voting.
Elections are the bedrock of democracy, granting citizens the vital privilege to elect their representatives. However, this right is not passive; it is a duty, especially incumbent upon the youth, to actively engage in the electoral process. Historically, young people have spearheaded societal change, and their involvement in elections is crucial. Strengthening democracy requires the active participation of youth at every stage, from voter registration to grassroots campaigning.
The first-time voters bring fresh perspectives and champion ideals such as transparency and inclusi-vity. The energy and tech- savvy nature of a young voter inject dynamism into the electoral landscape, fostering accessibility and responsiveness to citizens’ needs. Youth play a pivotal role in holding elected officials accountable, utilising social media to amplify voices and advocate for issues that resonate with the public, thereby safeguarding democracy’s integrity and vitality.
In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “The future depends on what you do today.” As the wheels of democracy turn once again, gearing up for the upcoming general election in India in 2024, it is imperative to underscore the pivotal role that the youth play in shaping the destiny of the Nation.
In his monthly radio programme “Mann Ki Baat,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised the importance of youth participa- tion in the electoral process, highlighting the Election Commission’s “Mera Pehla Vote Desh Ke Liye” campaign aimed at first-time voters.
Urging first-time voters to participate in record numbers, he stressed their crucial role in shaping the country’s destiny. PM Modi called upon influencers across various sectors to join the campaign and motivate young voters, recogni- sing their influential role in driving societal change. Amidst the electoral fervour, he urged the youth to not only participate in political activities but also stay informed about ongoing discussions and debates.
The Election Commission of India is spear heading “Mera Pehla Vote Desh Ke Liye” aimed at fostering universal enlightened participation of youth in elections. Union Minister Anurag Thakur launched the campaign anthem, symbolising the Nation’s commitment to encouraging young voters to exercise their democratic right.
The initiative is also witnessing Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) conducting comprehensive voter awareness activities nationwide and stressing the value of voting for a more representative democracy.
Whereas HEIs are hosting physical events, online competitions are also being organised on the MyGov platform, including blog writing, podcasts, debates, and more, to encourage creativity in content creation. Workshops, seminars, flash mobs, and voter pledge drives are further engaging and educating students on the electoral process, with NSS volunteers and institution clubs actively participating in the campaign.
Responding to Prime Minister’s appeal, influencers from across various platforms, including Instagram, YouTube, and the entertainment industry are actively supporting the campaign,motivating the first-time voters. Prominent names from across all corners of the country, who have made a mark in spheres like Sports, entertainment, business and industry, have come together to spread the message far and wide.
My fellow sportspersons like Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Aswin, Mohammed Siraj, Avani Lekhara, Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, film personalities industry leaders such as Ritesh Agarwal, BVR Mohan Reddy, and several Padma Awardees have participated in this campaign, turning it into a ‘National movement’ of voter awareness.
This ‘people’s movement’ underscores the collective power of voices of the youth and the importance of their active participation in shaping the country’s democratic landscape. Let’s unite in embracing this responsibility and celebrating the strength of our collective voices. Let us rise to the challenge, let us raise our voices, and let us empower others to do the same.
As athletes, we are champions of track and field; but as youth, we are ‘champions of change’. For in the game of democracy, every vote counts, and every voice matters.
The writer is a track and field athlete and reigning Olympic and World Champion in Men’s Javelin Throw.  Views expressed are personal.  PIB