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PM Modi congratulates Independent India’s first voter as 106-year-old Negi casts vote in Himachal poll 

Negi, independent India’s first voter, has not missed a single election since 1951

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has lauded 106-year-old Shyam Saran Negi for exercising his right to franchise for the 34th time. 

In a tweet the Prime Minister said, “This is commendable and should serve as an inspiration for the younger voters to take part in the elections and strengthen our democracy.”

Negi, independent India’s first voter, has not missed a single election since 1951—when he went to cast for India’s first poll at his village Kalpa—then known as Chini village.

Since then, he has made it a point to cast his vote –whether it’s Lok Sabha, state assembly or even Panchayat election.

But, on Wednesday Negi, a retired school teacher, became part of an event to cast his vote through postal ballot –a facility which the Election Commission of India has decided to extend to senior citizens and few other categories to ensure maximum participation in the elections.

“Due to ailing health, Negi’s family had contacted me and asked for organising the facility at home for sending postal ballot for November 12 state assembly poll in Kinnaur constituency” Abid Hussain Sadiq informed India Narrative over telephone.

To fulfil his wish, the district administration decided to convert the occasion into an event owing to the status of Negi as Independent India’s first voter.

In 2010, the Election Commission of India had also made him brand ambassador to promote voting in India.

“We accorded a red carpet welcome to Negi at his house and played traditional instruments to see that the grand old citizen, and also villagers get further motivated to promote voting for the upcoming polls” said Sadiq.

The first general elections were held in India after independence in February 1952 but Kinnaur went to the voting in October 1951 –much before India did. This was to ensure that elections were not disrupted by the snowfall and extreme winters .

Negi was born in July 1917 in Kalpa, Kinnaur and went to school at the age of 10, studied till the fifth standard in Kalpa. After this, he went to Rampur for studies. It took three days on foot to reach Rampur, says his family.

Calling Shyam Saran Negi a legend worth nationwide recognition, DC Kinnaur said his commitment to the country’s democracy is worth appreciation.

“I don’t think any person of his age and health status had voted in all the elections of their places. We are proud of him” he said.

Initially, Negi had declined the ECI offer to cast a postal ballot when Sadiq visited him last month among young first-time voters. He wanted to go to the booth but his failing health apparently compelled the family to organise postal ballots.

“I never missed any election— Parliament, State assembly and also Panchayats in my life. Till, I am alive, I will never fail to cast my vote,” he declared

Negi first voted on October 25,1951—when polling was held for the first time in Independent India. He was first to cast his vote .Since then, he had not missed a single election.

Last time he voted in the bypoll for the Mandi Parliamentary seat in November 2022.

In 2010, Negi was also honoured by the Chief Election Commissioner of India Navin Chawla, who visited his village.

“It took a lot of hardship to trace Negi, who lived in a small village at Kalpa.  It was the time when photo voters’ I-cards were being prepared. I saw a tiny photo of Negi ji and started my research as to who could be the oldest surviving voter or having voted in the first election of independent India. I was aptly helped by then Deputy Commissioner (Kinnaur) to M Sudha Devi authenticate his identity and also fish-out old voting records,“ recalls Manisha Nanda, a former Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) in Himachal Pradesh.

Studied up to class IX in Rampur itself. He initially worked as a Forest Guard from 1940 to 1946. After that he went to the education department and became a teacher in Kalpa Lower Middle School.

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