By Pooja Malhotra:
One of the easily forgotten themes of debates, that have surrounded the upcoming elections, is the lack of youth participation and absence of genuine representatives in the Parliament. Indian history has witnessed many young people leading the country towards independence; both Gandhi and Nehru became politically active at a young age. However, over the last few decades, our enthusiasm seems to have been muted, arguably due to deep rooted corruption and government insensitivity towards various social issues. Although it is true that the biggest success of our democracy is attributed to its representative character, the striking absence of the youth in the political arena has been largely overlooked. A youth representation (age group 25-40 years) of only 6.3 percent in the current Lok Sabha, even though 50 percent of the population lies in that age bracket, can’t be called parliamentary presence? Can it?
The Ocean in a Drop is an attempt to explore how young people have contributed significantly to society in the past, and suggests ways in which they can take centre stage again. This recently published book on youth-centric development is creating a buzz among those working with young people. It has raised a number of questions regarding youth leadership and active citizenship and argues that the answer lies in facilitating young people to be at the forefront of nation building again. On the same note, a panel discussion is being held at Casuarine Hall, India habitat Centre, Lodhi Road on 26th April, Time: 6.30 – 8.30 PM. The discussion is an attempt to seek answers to relevant questions, including:
Why are some young people fired with passion and others remain passive?
Why do some young people take responsibility and ownership while others are disinterested and detached?
Why are some young people happy to stay in their comfort zone while others are willing to take risks?
How can we systemically instil passion, ownership and risk taking abilities in young people? Is there a way we can create such a space? Is there a method in the madness?
In my opinion, there are many factors that could have contributed to low participation by youth. There is a sense of growing alienation among young people. The scandals and scams that have hounded the political scenario of our country in the past several decades have engendered a cynicism that has led to a decrease in political interest, particularly among the nation’s young population. Youth power has been unintentionally blunted and a feeling of being politically diminished & electorally insignificant seems to have given an edge to the fulmination of our old and experienced politicos. Many of us remain passive because we feel unrepresented and are losing faith in the political system as a whole.
There exists a certain sense of reluctance – to step out of our comfort zones and bring about social transformation. This seems to have taken its toll on our willingness to participate in community projects, attend political meetings, or contact their government representatives directly. Participation has considerably reduced in terms of young people joining a political party, working on a campaign or devoting time towards a cause. How many of us have the drive or passion to form action groups, draw up petitions or create a dialogue with our representatives? Youth participation has been gradually declining and most avenues of participation are narrowing down.
Though there is a palpable sense of frustration, there are young people who undertake that journey from self to society and search for solutions. They strongly believe that the only yardstick for participation cannot be representation alone. For them it’s not about who gets elected and how, but about actions that are taken on behalf of our people and for the people. It is as if they instinctively understand that their elected representatives have no major role to play, other than smiling through billboards that greet us on festivals. The idea of actually taking a stand, fighting for a social cause and taking concrete action may be less prevalent among ‘self absorbed youth’ of our country, but there are some self motivated individuals whose passion and drive cannot be restricted by reasons. The book conveys that if we want to bring about sustainable change and create a generation of active, committed and empathetic individuals deeply connected to society we need to work with young people and build youth leadership.
Pravah and Commutiny – the Youth Collective invite you to be a part of the panel discussion on The Ocean in a Drop: Inside-Out Youth Leadership (Sage Publications, 2013). Let’s delve into how we can facilitate young people to connect with society and empower them to impact the world around them.