It’s election season in India. Indians are in the midst of voting representatives for the 17th Lok Sabha. The electronic media, newspapers and social media are agog with news, opinions and debates on the future of our country. At the same time, every day we get news about how there is apathy among the urban middle class and educated class; statistics show that proportion of people who come out to vote in the urban areas is invariably lower than in smaller towns and in the rural areas.
So, as parents, out first duty is of course to ensure that our names are in the voting list and that we go out and vote on Election Day. If the parents are involved, children automatically imbibe the same attitude. Recently, a few of us were at an apartment helping residents to verify if their names were in the voter list, when this young boy, who would not have been a day more than 10, came up to me asking to check if his father’s name was in the list. He looked very concerned and said that his parents had registered a few months back for inclusion of their names in the list but his father had been checking online and could not still find his name. So I checked but unfortunately the name was yet to be included. The child’s face fell and he said, ‘that means he cannot vote!’ I was quite surprised by the boy’s involvement, especially at his age. Most likely, his father’s unhappiness at not being able to vote was rubbing off on the child. His parents have, without intending to perhaps, inculcated in him the importance of casting one’s vote. Contrast this with some other parents who plan a short break because Election Day happens to fall conveniently on a long week end and skip voting.
As parents we can engage in healthy debates at home on the future of our democracy- our view on what agenda is important for progress; on the relative merits of choosing good candidate vs choosing the right party and so on. Such debates are important because it makes youth more engaged in the political realities of India. The day will not be too far off when they go out to cast their vote, and this can be a good preparatory phase. Also, these elections in particular have witnessed loud and strident campaigning from different parties. The media appear to have taken sides and so children may be sometimes hard put to distinguish between what is an opinion and what is a fact. A healthy drawing room debate (provided as parents we can retain our sense of balance of course!) can help teenagers begin to think for themselves.
This is also a great opportunity to familiarize our children with the fundamentals of how the Indian democracy works. Civics classes are often times quite uninteresting in the way they explain such ideas (at least that’s how I remember mine ) whereas explaining what all this means as it happens may be more fun and lively for kids:
• What is a parliamentary democracy and how that is different from a presidential style system?
• Which are the major political parties in India and what is the difference between a national party and a regional one?
• Which parties are currently in power?
• Who can vote and how?
• What are the challenges in conducting elections in the world’s largest democracy?
In conclusion, every event that happens around us can be an enriching experience not only our children, but also for the entire family!
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