This could come as a surprise to many given the many recent signs of growing political awareness and activism among the young. These include the recent protests led by the city's youth and the new avatar of social media, which is now widely regarded as an effective political tool for mobilising the young population.
Delhi's recently released electoral roll data suggests that only 3.6 lakh of those enrolled to vote in the assembly elections are aged 18 or 19. They constitute roughly 3% of the total number of voters in Delhi. Census data, on the other hand, reveals that in 2011 there were 6.4 lakh people aged 16-17. By that reckoning, the 18-19 age group figures for 2013 should be close to this significantly higher number.
Of course, many of those aged 16-17 at the time of the census in 2011 may have moved out, either for studies or in search of jobs, but given the fact that Delhi, like other big metropolises, is a magnet for job seekers from elsewhere, this should be more than offset by those migrating to Delhi from other parts of India.
When contacted, Shurbir Singh, Delhi's special chief electoral officer, told TOI that all efforts are being made to make youngsters a part of the electoral process and ensure that they are enrolled to vote. "In 2012, this age group comprised of only 0.8% of the total electors. We have managed to increase it to 3%", he pointed out.
However, the census data shows that those aged 16-17 in 2011 were 5.4% of the population aged 16 or more at the time. Once again, it appears that only a little over half of those in this age-group have actually enrolled to vote. If one takes the census and electoral roll data, only about 56% of the 18-19 age group may be in the electorate as of now.
Singh also suggested that some of the gap between the census figures and the electoral rolls could be because the electoral rolls only include people who were 18-years-old on 1-1-2013. This excludes all those who attained voting age of 18 years between January 2nd and the day of election. "We are focussing on school and college campuses to encourage these people to register as voters," he added.
Apart from the official machinery, a plethora of NGOs and citizens' groups too have been campaigning for people, particularly the young, to enrol themselves and participate in the electoral process. It appears that while all these efforts have had a significant impact, as reflected in the increase in the proportion of 18-19 year olds in the electorate since 2012, there is a long way still to go. Perhaps come 2014, we might see a further improvement.