While India celebrates the festival of democracy, one man in Himachal Pradesh has proved to become a shining example of a responsible citizen. 102-year-old Shyam Saran Negi is not only India’s oldest voter but also the first voter of independent India in 1951. From then onward, Negi has never missed a single election.
The centenarian is a staunch believer of democracy and as he prepares to vote during the 2019 General Elections, he has urged others to do so as well. Today, Negi has become a local celebrity of sorts as he is the subject of media glares wherever he goes out to vote. Negi is a resident of Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh.
How was he tracked down?
Hindustan Times reported that Negi was just another elderly voter till 2007 when Indian Administrative Service officer Manisha Nanda, now additional chief secretary (public works department) in Himachal Pradesh first came to know of Negi from a photo electoral roll. Nanda told the daily, “I had a lot of interest in Kinnaur since as I was aware that voting in the snow-bound area was held ahead of other places in the country.” She was looking at electoral roll pictures which had voters 90 years of age. As soon as Negi’s photo caught his eye, Nanda sent election department officials to visit Negi, who was 92 at the time.
The then Kinnaur deputy commissioner, IAS officer M Sudha Devi went to meet Negi, who was amongst the reputed men at Kalpa.
Negi had informed that he was the first voter of independent India and that he has not missed out on a single election since then. This was owing to the fact that the voting in Kannur district took place ahead of the rest of the country on account of snowfall. Negi was born on July 1, 1917, and was a government school teacher. Negi’s 53-year-old son, Chander Prakash had informed that his father, who was assigned poll duty in the first election of independent India, he requested that he is allowed to first cast his vote and then move to his polling station where he was assigned duty. Chander Prakash further adds that his father’s request was accepted by the officer concerned and that is how he became the country’s first voter.
After listening to such claims, the polling officials started to research on the matter. After four long months of search, at its headquarters in New Delhi, Nanda had finally traced down the first voter. She said that it was like finishing a PhD on the matter.
A local celebrity
Negi has been appointed as the brand ambassador of Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) campaign by the Election Commission. In 2010, then Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla honoured him as part of the Election Commission’s diamond jubilee celebrations. During the 2014 elections, Google made a video featuring Negi for its ‘Pledge to Vote Campaign’, which garnered immense support.
“I am appealing to all the voters, especially the younger generation, to spare time and elect an honest man who can take the country to new heights,” Shyam Saran Negi told IANS.
Voting during the election season is the right and the responsibility of every citizen. The Logical Indian applauds the efforts of Negi and his willfulness to continue voting even at this age. At the same time, it urges young voters to go out to vote and participate in the festival of democracy, for this is the way forward to change society for the better.