In the run-up to Karnataka’s state election on May 10, Reap Benefit—a nonprofit that works with youth and local governance—launched a Citizen War Room, comprising a toll-free helpline and a WhatsApp chatbot, for first-time voters. The initiative aims to provide young people information on the candidates and parties to enable them to vote consciously.
In just over five days, the war room has received more than 500 calls—70 percent from rural areas and Tier-II or Tier-III cities, and the rest from Bengaluru. These young voters inquire about voting processes, political parties, and polling. “They also ask us about corruption and how to lodge a complaint against a corrupt MLA,” says Manasa, a young SolveNinja (volunteer) at Reap Benefit.
Approximately 10 percent of these callers also asked a critical question: What is a candidate’s or a party’s stance on climate change?
In the bustling metropolis of Bengaluru, the mounting waste management crisis, encroachment of lakes and flooding, and increasing number of electric vehicles have become popular topics of discussion in recent years. Young voters, concerned and impacted by these issues, have asked us about a candidate’s agenda regarding these. Meanwhile, in the rural areas of Karnataka such as Navalgund and Bhatkal, voters are more focused on another crucial and basic necessity—water rejuvenation.
While manifestos released by popular parties do touch upon climate change, they tend to overlook pressing hyperlocal concerns such as water and waste management. Instead, they often prioritise high-level issues such as renewable energy (especially solar power), net-zero emissions, and forest cover. Furthermore, in pamphlets distributed to voters by the various parties and in speeches held during campaigns, these subjects are not mentioned at all.
The fact that our young people, even if in small numbers, are focusing on and asking about climate change is a sign for political parties in India to pay more attention to this critical issue and how it plays out locally.
Ashish V R and Archana K R are a part of the Reap Benefit’s Citizen War Room portal.
Know more: Read this story to learn more about how climate change is impacting stone pasting workers in Ahmedabad.