There is no room for ignorance in the India of 26-year-old Supriya Paul, co-founder of Josh Talks. The vernacular video platform brings success stories from across India as inspiring examples to effect change through information. Last month, Supriya and partner Shobhit Banga found an opportunity in the Delhi election to inform first-time voters using a special awareness campaign. Their mantra is inclusivity. No excuse is justified. Voting is a must. Every person counts, which is why every vote has power, especially in India, the world’s largest democracy. A significant part of this electorate is first-time voters. With elections in more states slated this year and the next, the two awareness creators will have their hands busy. They noticed that while many voters hit the polling booths in the recently concluded Delhi state elections, a large number stayed back home. Why? They found the process overwhelming.
Josh Talks is the vernacular Ted Talk of India, an impact media platform, which works on mobilising the youth for gender equality, sustainability, and promoting businesses among others. Educating young voters through workshops became their mission when the platform rolled out its first awareness campaign #MakeYourMark in 2018, targeting 130 million first-time voters before General Elections 2019. The first phase got over 50 million views for 15 videos, thanks to Josh Talks’s collaboration with Facebook. Along with the Offices of Chief Electoral Officers in Jaipur, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Bengaluru, Chandigarh and Mumbai, and 11 more states, Citizen Town Hall events were organised to reach over 300,000 young voters, online and offline. Likewise, in its second phase, the focus was on the maiden voter bank in Delhi 2020 using the ‘Vote With Josh’ campaign.
Two months before every election, Josh Talks addresses voters offline and online. “This time, we partnered with the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, Delhi. Our expert trainers conducted three workshops with over 600 students in Delhi University colleges,” says Paul. The initiative helps youngsters sieve through the chaos of political information and make informed decisions: how to register, what each party stands for, the importance of reading every manifesto and understanding their ideologies and searching for your voting booth. “In 2014, less than half the first-time voters cast their ballot. We used creative means to attract noncommittal voters.
Workshops of inspiring stories from grassroots India, videos in vernacular languages, and Citizen Townhall events were organised with the shared agenda to deepen the democratic process with larger participation,” says Paul. The mission of Josh Talks is to reach out to youth who are indifferent, dismissive, and disillusioned with the political process.
“Over the years, we have observed that direct engagement, coupled with online sensitisation, leads to more engaged citizens. Sometimes conducting offline activities on a large scale is challenging but once we start direct interactions, the response is encouraging,” she says, adding, “It is humbling to know that an 18-year-old decided to vote because she heard the story of 101-year-old Mr Shyam Sundar Negi, the first voter of independent India who has never missed an election. That’s the kind of change we are hoping through Josh Talks.” Very soon, they could be the talk of the country.
What the awareness workshops target
- Importance of individual vote
- Voting after being well-informed
- Voting ethically
- Community engagement of the young through social media
- Sieving misinformation from reality
- Steps implemented by the Election Commission of India to maintain election integrity
Growing up, Paul was interested in learning new languages. She now wishes to learn Mandarin. Opera and travelling are her twin passions. She is trained in Hindustani classical music and is utterly fascinated with calligraphy. But for now, all she is focused on is getting the numbers in strike ballot.