Early Lessons in Democracy - The New Indian Express

Early Lessons in Democracy

Published: 10th March 2014 08:35 AM

Last Updated: 10th March 2014 08:55 AM

In a country wehere anybody can become politically active and garner enough support, it’s little surprise to hear of students electing their own representatives within their own realm. And while certain cities are known for politically active youth, Bangalore probably doesn’t feature among them yet, but perhaps the city’s educational institutions are not as far behind as one might assume.

One of the oldest women’s colleges in the city has student body elections every year. “This helps familiarise us with processes involved in elections,” says a member of the student council pursuing a course in History and Economics on a condition that the college may not be named. “To make it more realistic for us, the college even gets the electronic voter machines used in the general elections,” she says. However, while these annual elections have their benefits, she feels that it doesn’t really motivate students to vote outside of college. “And I’ve noticed a general lack of awareness. People don’t keep up with current affairs,” she adds.

R Venkat Rao, vice chancellor, National Law School of India University (NLSIU) believes that the electoral process at the university’s student body elections helps them appreciate and fully understand how the election system in the country works and lets them understand how necessary elections are to the running of a democratic nation. “NLSIU fully believes in transparent democratic practices. We have the Student BAR Association which is an elected body, and the president of the body is elected by the students themselves. Every year a faculty advisor is appointed who plays the Election Commissioner’s role. Nominations are invited from among the students and there is a full-fledged campaign. The final counting of votes takes place within the classes themselves and the president is announced,” he says.

According to Rao, students are encouraged to vote during the General Elections, as well. This year the student president of the Legal Aid Solutions Committee at NLSIU, Basavanna Patil, managed to devise a strategy through which all the students were registered for voting at Bangalore itself, so they can vote during the upcoming General Elections.

This apart, there are some colleges that are taking part in Bangalore Political Action Committee’s (BPAC) One Million New Votes Campaign. Sowkhya Patil, a second year political science student at Mount Carmel College was interning at BPAC when the campaign was discussed. With the support of the political science department of her college, she and a few fellow students began a drive to get people to register to vote.

“Around 200 people have registered so far and majority of them are our college students,” says Patil, adding, “Most people don’t know that you can vote even of you don’t have a voter’s id card. All you need is an Aadhar card or a passport to register,” she says.

Even Nandan Nilenkani’s rounds across South Bangalore, including schools and colleges, might supposedly be contributing to the overall political awareness of students. A  couple of weeks ago, Nandan Nilenkani gave a talk at NMKRV College for Women.

“He wasn’t talking about the party he’s standing for. But many students these days are not aware when elections are happening. The talk at least served the purpose of informing students that the elections are coming up soon,” says Dr M N Vani, Head of department of Journalism.

On the importance of student body elections in helping educated youngsters take a stand politically, she says, “Student elections within institutions are good - they help nurture leadership qualities - but one should guard against gundaism,” she adds.

Some schools too seem to not want to be left out. V Jayanthi, principal, Sree Saraswathi Vidya Mandir, V V Puram says that she too believes student body elections are essential. “We have a new representative committee every year. When there are enough contestants, we have elections. But sometimes some parents discourage their children from contesting. When this happens, as was the case this academic year as well, we are forced to nominate representatives,” she says.

According to Rema VV, principal, Metropolitan School, student councils help in children understanding the value of vote. She says, “We started the student council about two years back. And it has been a healthy experience where at a young age, students are encouraged to choose their leader. They are allowed to follow their chosen leaders with enthusiasm and their attitude towards them also changes.”

Geetha Nagaraj, principal of Bangalore International Academy feels that students council are definitely an important aspect while leaning. “They get to know the importance of choosing their own leaders and it is definitely something that should be encouraged. With some direction from the teachers, students are able to make their own choice and it is akin to a democratically elected leader as it is in our country,” she says.

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