I visited my university a few days ago and while passing alongside the cafeteria, I decided to step in and have a cup of tea. While I sat there enjoying the beverage; I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation of young students sitting on the table opposite to mine. The topic was politics and all of the youngsters seemed obviously disgruntled. “What use is all this voting and elections?” One of them said. “It’s just a ploy to fool the citizens”, another responded angrily. The emotionally charged discussion of the students continued as I stood up and, introducing myself, asked the students if I could join them, which they happily agreed to. After telling them about the good times I have spent as a student of the university, I inquired what the cause of their pessimism in democracy was. The students were charged with resentment while speaking about deteriorating quality of life in the country and why it has become futile to vote, as elected members do not comply with their fascinating promises. I could sense an utter state of bitterness and despair as they talked about issues of bad governance resulting into load shedding, worsening law and order, corruption and inflation. Each seemed firmly adamant to not vote in upcoming elections. I decided it was my time to pitch in.
“What role have you played to change the worsening situation of the country?” I inquired. The students were definitely quite upset on my remarks. “What possibly can we do besides going to vote in the elections?” One of them asked. “Democracy and good governance can only be strengthened with the participation of the people, you voted in the elections, right? Now it is time for you to continue on the track and dispel the negative attitude you hold towards democracy”, I said. “If not democracy, then what system of government would you support?” I inquired. The students were silent, which gave me further impetus to continue on. “You should all utilize your right to information to get information from the government departments on issues that concern you or others around you”, I uttered. I definitely had the interest of the students now as I went on to explain that investing in country’s future requires more than just voting every five years and that it entails keeping a vigilant eye over the functioning of the government to ensure that the problems of the country are rectified. Time passed swiftly, as I soon realized that I had to go for my meeting with the university registrar, but I felt good that it has been a productive talk and that I might have informed and empowered these students. The smiles on the students’ faces did tell that their negativity and apathy towards democracy has been torn apart. Armed with knowledge of right to information as a tool for democratic governance, they seemed more empowered to play their roles as active citizens. I believe that I had played my part well.

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