“Instead of working towards instilling the essence of democracy among citizens, we’ve only managed to divide people on the basis of religion, caste, language, ethnicity, and regionalism since Independence; what we now have is a ‘democracy’ in which leaders rule along these fault lines,” said P.L. Dharma, a Professor from the Department of Political Science, Mangalore University, here on Friday.

Addressing students, teachers, and government officials at a function to mark ‘National Voters’ Day’, Mr. Dharma said: “We teach the younger generation the intricacies of religion and caste, but do not teach them values of the political system that would make them responsible citizens. Instead of building the religion of democracy and defying the Constitution, we have built barriers of religious, caste and ethnic politics.”

He lamented that these training programmes for voters are attended by only a few, whereas, religious rallies are attended by thousands from far and wide.

‘Political apathy’

The political science researcher said the “political apathy” among the people here would not change until the youth were made aware of the power of the political system in shaping the country, and this in turn would inculcate righteous political ambitions in them. “By not voting, we lose the moral right to blame the government and those elected for the issues around us,” he said.

Mr. Dharma suggested that the government, in celebrating the various freedom fighters and religious leaders of the country, celebrated the work of the former Chief Election Commissioner T.N. Seshan, who was responsible for strengthening the commission as an independent body.

Calling the ‘vote’ an ‘all-powerful weapon’, K. Shantharam Shetty, Pro-Chancellor of Nitte University, said that the issues that afflict the nation — from poverty and illiteracy to unemployment — stem from a lack of proper leadership; and it was through the electoral process that proper leadership could be identified and supported. “Unfortunately, the country is being ruled by a political class where casteism, nepotism and corruption are rampant.

It is up to the 40 crore youth of the country to change this,” he said.

However, N. Prakash, Deputy Commissioner, expressed optimism at the increasing voter percentages.

“But even 60 per cent is not enough. Only when it crosses 90 per cent will we achieve a real democracy,” Mr. Prakash said.

The event started with the formation of a human chain in front of the Town Hall, while Voter ID cards to newly-enrolled citizens were distributed.

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