SHIMLA: Independent India’s first voter – Shyam Saran Negi – died at the age of 106 in his residence in Kalpa a Kinnaur Himachal Pradesh district on Saturdays early in the morning.
On November 2, Negi had exercised his right to vote for the 34th time using for the first time the postal vote for the state assembly elections to be voted on November 12. In his life, Negi had never lost a chance to vote. When the country’s first general elections were announced, the decision was made to hold voting in Kinnaur on October 25, 1951 considering the severe winters and first snowfall while in other parts of the country elections were held in January-February 1952.

Then the election material was brought to the Kinnaur polling station of Chini village (now known as Kalpa) on mules and Shyam Saran Negi had become the first person to vote in independent India.
Deputy Commissioner, Kinnaur, Abid Hussain Sadiq said Shyam Saran Negi took his last breath at 2am at his residence. He said the district administration is organizing his last rites with full honor.
On October 25, 1951, a new chapter in the history of independent India was written in the village of Chini (now Kalpa) when a resident of Kinnaur, Shyam Saran Negi, was the first to vote in the first general elections. Then the election material was brought to the polling station in the village of Chini, which was an elementary school, on mules. At that time the Mandi parliamentary constituency was known as the Mandi-Mahasu parliamentary college.
Sadiq said that since the by-elections of the parliamentary seat in Mandi from 1951 to 2021, Negi never lost an opportunity to vote by going to the polling station in his village and once again he wanted to cast his vote at the polling station.
“Considering his age and health, last week we asked him if he wanted to vote at home but he refused saying he will vote at the polling station. But unfortunately he got sick and informed us of his decision to vote at home and consequently the arrangements were made by the district administration, “he added.


File photo of Shyam Saran Negi who voted for the election of the PRI at the Kalpa polling station in Kinnaur two years ago.

Negi was a source of inspiration to others as he never missed an opportunity to vote in parliamentary, assembly and panchayat elections and was committed to always voting.
Despite his ill health, he was determined to vote at the polling station on November 12, but as his condition worsened, he filled out Form 12D to cast his vote at his Kalpa residence on November 2. The Kinnaur borough administration had given him the red carpet welcome to his residence to cast his vote.
Among the sounds of the traditional Kinnauri drums, Negi had voted in the presence of the entire administration who was present to welcome him. After putting his ballot in the box, Kinnaur Deputy Commissioner and District Electoral Officer, Abid Hussain Sadiq, honored him with a bouquet, traditional Kinnauri cap and scarf. Born in July 1917, Negi retired as a school teacher in 1975.
Shyam Saran Negi, in his last message had motivated young people to vote by telling them the value of every single vote. He had said that after much effort the country has gained freedom from slavery and every election is like a religious holiday, so people should vote religiously so that good people are elected.
Shyam Saran Negi had never failed to vote
Since 1951, Shyam Saran Negi had never failed to vote. It was in 2010 that India’s then Chief Electoral Commissioner Navin Chawla visited Kalpa Village to congratulate Negi and in 2014 the Himachal Pradesh State Election Commission appointed him as a brand ambassador to build awareness among the young voters to participate in the electoral system. Negi took the limelight globally after Google created a video of its own for its #PledgeToVote campaign during the 2014 parliamentary election. After Google’s video went viral, Negi became a household name as it was shown telling the story of October 25, 1951 when he went out to walk to the polling station despite heavy snowfall.

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