Analysis of the polls: in Punjab, a curious case of a voter missing for the first time


Roughly 6 of the top 10 registered voters in Punjab voted in the February 20 Assembly polls, compounding the woes of political parties that had spared no effort to woo young people and already fear the March 10 result being given that the total voter turnout of 72% this time around was the lowest in 15 years.

There were a total of 3,48,836 first-time registered voters in Punjab this time around, of whom 1,99,023 or 57% exercised their right to vote.

Punjab had a projected population of 9.30 lakh in the 18-19 age group but could only register 3.48 lakh or 38% as first voters ahead of the Assembly polls. In absolute numbers, the figure is almost 46,000 less than the state’s first 3,94,780 registered voters before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and more than 18,000 less than the number (3,67,077) recorded before the 2017 Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections.

Data collected across Punjab revealed that six out of 23 districts recorded less than 50% of votes by first-time registered voters. Only three districts recorded 70 or more ballots by rookies.

The lowest poll among new arrivals, at 32%, was in Mohali, followed by Tarn Taran (38.4%). Gurdaspur, Kapurthala, Amritsar and Jalandhar also recorded low voter turnout with 46.7%, 47%, 47.2% and 47.5% of newcomer votes respectively.

Pathankot recorded 50.7%, Patiala 50.9%, Ferozepur 54.9% and Ludhiana 57% according to early polls.

Ten districts recorded 60% or more newcomer participation. These are Moga (63%), Mansa (63.9%), Bathinda and Malerkotla (64%), Barnala (65.4%), Nawanshahr (66.1%), Hoshiarpur (66.7%) , Faridkot (67.3%). cent), Ropar (68.7%) and Sangrur (68.9%).

Only three districts recorded 70% or more polls by newbies – Fazilka (70.8%), Muktsar Sahib (71.8%) and Fatehgarh Sahib (74.6%).

As political parties reflect on the low turnout of young voters, experts blame it on students, who got their names on the voter rolls, leaving the district, state or country for higher education. Many first-time voters have also moved in search of employment. And many of those who are still in Punjab and in the eligible age group do not have much interest in registering as voters as their main interest is to go abroad for higher education and employment.

Professor Gian Singh, a retired economics professor, who was part of the tram that carried out a study on “socio-economic and demographic analysis of international migration from rural Punjab”, said the exodus of students of Punjab never stopped and after the pandemic it only increased due to loss of income, mainly in the agricultural sector, in the state.

Incidentally, even political parties gave air to the foreign dreams of young people. Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, who is also the face of the Congress CM, has promised that if he returns to power, his government will provide interest-free loans to young people to go abroad, as well as free coaching for IELTS, TOEFL and PTE. The Aam Aadmi party has also announced that it will fund study abroad for Dalit and poor students in the state.

Where are these missing young voters

After the low registration rate compared to the expected number of voters for the first time, Chief Electoral Officer of Punjab, S Karuna on January 21, when this data was released, said he had written to the Ministry of External Affairs to obtain data on state students who have gone to study abroad to register them on the electoral lists.

According to data provided by immigration consultants, in two years – 2019 and 2020 – nearly 2.37 lakh youths in the age bracket of 18-20 years moved to various countries on student visa. They said that in 2021, more than one lakh applied for the student visa.

Can-Able Immigration Consultants, based in Ludhiana, informed that about 1.40 lakh study permits for Indian students were issued by Canada in 2019 and 85,700 in 2020 despite the Covid-19 pandemic. They said final numbers for 2021 were yet to be released. The figure should be much higher given the huge backlog of applications. So, in just two years, more than 2.25 lakh Indian students got study permits from Canada alone, of which 1.35 lakh to 1.57 lakh were from Punjab.

Consultation officials said there was a huge backlog of applications and that Canadian authorities are still sorting it out.

The director of the consultancy, Khilandeep Singh, further informed that the UK, which had relaxed standards even when Covid was at its peak, allowed more than 87,000 Indian students, including 50,076 in 2020 and 37,000 in 2019. Of these, about 61,000 (70 percent) were from Punjab.

Similarly, Australia granted visas to 23,354 students and the United States to 14,971 in 2020. The majority of applicants were from Punjab, the consultancy said.

Gurpreet Singh of i-Can Consultancy, based in Kapurthala, said that from September 2020 to September 2021 there had been a 197 per cent increase in the issuance of student visas by the UK compared to the UK. pre-pandemic year of 2019.


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