Catch ’em sharp before you catch ’em young.
The Ranchi district administration’s earnest endeavour to beef up Jharkhand’s voter list by enrolling the crop of new adults across capital colleges has met with tepid response, thanks to lack of both awareness and interest among students.
Officials claim they had conducted a month-long campaign to enrol new voters from colleges in October. Owing to holiday hindrances, the drive was further extended to November 20. But, students remained lukewarm to the much-hailed duty of democracy.
Of the 26,000 enrolment forms distributed in a dozen colleges, only 4,850 have been filled up and submitted for reasons best known to students.
“I had absolutely no idea that forms for voter enrolment were available in our college. Else, I would have got myself one,” said Amit Kumar Verma (19), a B.Com second-year student at St Paul’s College, which has no less than 4,000 students who have attained the age of 18.
Student of mass communication and video production at St Xavier’s College Shivani Singh (20) said neither her friends nor she had any information about the enrolment process. “Now that you tell me, I will enquire about the form,” she said.
On the other hand, Ashish Kumar (19), a BA student of Ranchi College, said he knew about the drive but could not find time to fill up a form. “However, I will want to have a voter ID,” he added.
Subham Burman (18), who is studying intermediate commerce at Gossner College, had a different excuse. “A notice had been put up about the enrolment form. But, I had not been able to go to college for many days,” he said.
Student unions too seemed to have taken little interest in the matter and, hence, failed to encourage the enrolment process. “I have no idea about voter forms,” said Harish Kumar, a member of Ajsu’s youth wing.
The capital has about 12 reputable higher education cradles — including Ranchi College, St Paul’s College, Gossner College, Marwari College, Ranchi Women’s College, St Xavier’s College, Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav College, Doranda College and Suraj Singh Memorial College — where more than 30,000 students are aged 18 and above, but haven’t been enrolled on the voter list.
According to Ranchi College principal, the interest level among students is low. “In our college, we had deputed a teacher exclusively to oversee the enrolment process. But, few students were forthcoming,” he said. Jha also pointed to the laid-back attitude of students to adult franchise. “Many students are detached. Others are unmindful. Hence, enrolment is slow,” he added.
A worried district administration has held at least two meetings after November 20 to discuss how to encourage unwilling students. In fact, state chief electoral officer P.K. Jajoria on Wednesday even named Team India captain M.S. Dhoni and ace archer Deepika Kumari as voter ambassadors of the government.
Ranchi Sadar SDO Amit Kumar said they were planning to launch a fresh campaign from January 15. “It will continue till we get good response. We will also put up dropboxes in colleges so that students can submit enrolment forms without hassles,” Kumar said, adding that they had recently taken out a public notice urging youths to come forward and register themselves on the voter list.
The district administration’s desperation is not unfounded. In the next two years, three elections to the Ranchi civic body, state Assembly and Lok Sabha are scheduled, where the role of new voters will understandably be vital.