Establishment of factories to create jobs, strengthening a “decaying” education and health system, and rejuvenating the “cursed Falgu river” are some of the demands of young voters in Bihar’s Gaya Lok Sabha constituency, which goes to polls next week. Several youths, including first-time voters, from the constituency’s rural and urban areas also alleged that growth of Gaya has been stymied due to administrative apathy and corruption, and wanted lawmakers, who will be elected, to address the issue.
Gaya, located about 100 km from state capital Patna, is among the Lok Sabha constituencies where elections will be held in the first phase of the polls on April 11.
Ahead of the polling in this reserved (SC) parliamentary seat, the anxiety and worries of the young population is palpable, but many are also articulate about the expectations they have from the candidates and the next government to be elected.
Kaushal Kishor, 20, a native of Tekari, near Gaya town, hawks books on Maths tricks on Patna-Gaya passenger trains in the morning to support his widowed mother and 18-year-old brother.
A student of SN Sinha College in Tekari town, the seat of the eponymous erstwhile Zemindari Raj, he, said, “I shuttle between Patna and Gaya in morning passenger trains twice a week to earn some money by selling books to commuters. I belong to a poor family, and I also coach school students in mathematics to supplement my income.”
Kishor, who belongs to the Dalit community, is preparing for competitive examinations but laments that he has little hope of getting a job.
“I am a first-time voter, but sometimes, I feel like not voting for anyone. A good leader may be elected at the top who sit in Delhi. But, it is the people in the local administration, the police system and health and education machinery, who have to deliver,” he said, alleging, “there is corruption in police administration, which people face, especially the poor”.
“Our leaders should strike on this corruption and work to uplift the poor people. When I go to school to meet students, in most schools, I find that the education system has collapsed. So, education should be a priority issue too in elections, But, is it,” Kishor asked.
In Gaya town, first-time voters and youth in their mid-20s are also uncertain about their future and demand that factories and manufacturing units be established here to generate jobs.
Shiv Shankar Kumar, 19, pursuing an undergraduate course in Economics at the Anugrah Memorial College, said, “I might be pleased with the leadership in the Centre, but what has Gaya gained so far. We will soon be graduating and if there are no jobs at home, we will be forced to migrate. So, employment generation is the main issue for me in this election.”
Shiv and his 18-year-old friend Suraj Kumar, a student at Gaya College, under the Magadh University, however, feel, there is one issue which has never been taken up seriously by any government, in state or Centre. And that is rejuvenation of the Falgu river.
“Mythically, our Falgu is a ‘cursed’ river. It flows only in monsoon, and then dries up in summers, drains empty into it and the filth has made its bed worse. Gaya is a holy town, and abode of Lord Vishnu at the ancient Vishnupad Temple which sits on the banks of Falgu. The next elected government must take up cleaning and rejuvenation of Falgu, as it is being done for Ganga,” Shiv said.
“Falgu must be relieved of her curse (‘Falgu ko shhrap se mukt kiya jana chahiye’). It should be an election issue,” he told PTI.
Shreya Rathore, 19, a BA student at a college under the Magadh University, also said the education system in Gaya district has “deteriorated”.
“In government schools, the situation is the worst. A student of class 5 is unable to read a word properly for lack of proper education and teachers. There are countless private schools but even they are catering to complete development of a student, but simply for marketing purposes and students get trapped in those schools,” she alleged.
Rathore said, education system here needs an overhaul, while another university student, Surbhi said, “government should take up employment generation issue on a serious note”.
Rakesh Pandey, 26, who holds a Master’s degree in History, is still looking for a job, and laments that “there are no or very little vacancies in government jobs”.
“I have voted in 2014 Lok Sabha polls and 2015 Bihar polls, but this time, besides the pan-India issues, the local issues that affect us directly should also be on the minds of our leaders,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday in a rally at Gaya town, thanked the people for giving him and the BJP the opportunity to serve them and said he would form the government again with their “blessings”.
According to data shared by the Gaya district administration, a total of 17,02,567 voters will exercise their franchise in the April 11 polls.
“About 49,000 voters are in the 18-19 age groups with girls (around 51 per cent) outnumbering the boys. We are building awareness so that more and more people come out and vote in this election,” Gaya District Magistrate Abhishek Singh told PTI.
Gaya district has six assembly segments within the Gaya parliamentary constituency — Sherghati, Barachatti, Bodh Gaya, Gaya Town, Belaganj and Wazirganj.
Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) chief and former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi is pitted against JD(U) candidate Vijay Kumar Manjhi in this crucial seat in Bihar that has a total of 40 parliamentary constituencies.