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Youth Reservation In Policy Making SHOULD Be A Part Of Political Manifestos: Here”s Why! #unManifesto

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By Somrita Urni Ganguly:

“When I first came to JNU, I was introduced to a politically charged campus, with its baffling amount of political information and large number of political posters. I saw the teacher-student relationship here, I saw the kind of educational environment that JNU offered and I asked myself why the rest of the people — not fortunate enough to be in JNU — should be bereft of this kind of education. I realized that it is not any kind of institutional mechanism but the students and their activism, their assertion for their rights and their Communist ideology which makes JNU what it is. Hence, I decided to join students’ politics.”- Akbar Chawdhary, President, Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union

indian youth

JNU is a way of life, and JNU happened to me, like it happened to Akbar, the elected President of the Students’ Union (2013-2014) of India’s premier Research University, quite suddenly. I had led a cloistered life for nearly twenty years in Calcutta — under the strict Methodist supervision of Calcutta Girls’ High School and then the ‘apolitical’ ethos that the Irish nuns maintained in Loreto College. “Don’t call it apolitical”, my fellow debater, Sayan, who now studies Public Policy at Rutgers University, used to complain. Sayan, unlike me, had been active in students’ politics in the three years of undergraduate programme. “No institute is apolitical; they might not be affiliated to any party, they might not be unionized, they might not do jhanda politics, but they are all political at some level”, he had once told me and this realization dawned on me once I reached JNU. Every statement I make, every action I initiate is political at some level. When I landed in JNU for the first time in 2011, it was a crucial period in the University, as far as students’ activism was concerned. The Lyngdoh Committee Recommendations had ensured the process of elections being erased from the face of the campus for nearly four years. The zeal with which I saw the resident scholars fighting to bring the elections back in JNU — sitting on hunger strikes, staging protest demonstrations within the campus and outside the Supreme Court of the country — was real. It was this enthusiasm, this movement, this struggle which moved me to join their activism — because their demands were no longer theirs alone. Students’ activism, I figured, could help one break free from the narrow shatters of individualism and from selfish career-centric notions. As Akbar tells me, “Students’ politics helps you comprehend that emancipation is always collective.”

It is with this understanding today that I insist that youth reservation in policy making should be a part of political manifestos across the globe. Politics, if Churchill were to be believed, is the last resort of the scoundrel and the political situation in India post-independence has left us with little to doubt the British Statesman’s bitter observation. Given that background, I believe it is imperative for the youth of the nation to take an active interest in politics and policy making. The young are blessed with an idealism which one tends to lose with experience and age. Aiming for utopia is a notion still credible to the young. The young are alive in spirit, awash with ideas. They are enthused with the zest for fighting, for rebelling and for bringing about change. It is this dynamism that a nation requires to move forward and therefore amends need to be made in political manifestos to ensure that there is scope for the young to actively participate in decision-making processes of a nation.

An arguable majority of the 1.2 billion people residing in India falls in the age bracket that we categorize as “young”. Statistics point that the median age of our country is around 25 years. This is an enterprising, promising population. Why then should someone else decide our future for us? Why indeed then should there be no scope for our voices to be heard, for our options to be considered, for our choices to be taken into account? This article has been written in a specific context — that of the unManifesto campaign. We have complained enough, cribbed enough. This campaign enables us to move towards a process that is truly democratic and not just democratic in name — it calls the youth of the nation to form their own political manifesto and organizations like UNFPA, Pravah and YKA are at pains to make these ideas available and accessible to the who’s-who of the manifesto-making committees at the zonal, regional and national levels. This sort of participation not only spreads political awareness among the youth but also encourages the young brigade of the nation to inculcate the all-important principle of accountability, so grossly lacking in the elected representatives of this nation. Creating an unManifesto and then submitting it as a draft to the political leadership of the country is the first step towards something bigger, better. It is the first step towards creating a social and political ethos that learns to take the youth of a nation seriously. The young people are the Today of the world and their essential vitality can go a long way in creating brighter Tomorrows.

Pointing to the support that the youth extended to Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh, my former batchmate, Tanisha, currently an intern with the Hindustan Times, Kolkata, asserts that “young people are the future of the country”. There should therefore necessarily be a system that encourages, enables and ensures that young people can become a part of the policy making body of a State. And as Kristina, a young student from Wisconsin, who is now pursuing her Masters in Linguistics from Delhi, suggests very practically — “the young people together form a very large voting bank” and it is about time that the political parties of India stopped undermining that force. When young people band together, they are a voice, strong and powerful enough to be paid heed to.

Hold your politicians accountable. Join us and co-create India’s largest people’s manifesto: unManifesto

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  1. Astha

    I understand and support that key argument that you have made here. We, the youth of this country, deserve a greater role to play in politics. We definitely form a huge vote block, power that cannot be undermined. Being a part of unmanifsto I do feel that we ought to make our stakes clear, and believe that now is the time of transition from polls to parliament. However, I do not understand the salience of reservation for youth in political bodies. There was a specific purpose behind the genesis of reservation- historical discrimination. Youth is neither a coherent identity, too loose to be called one, criss-crossed nature of identities makes it a rather spurious suggestion. We do not need reservation in decision-making, we have to be more assertive to get there. We aren’t historically disadvantaged to not be able to do that.

    1. Somrita Urni Ganguly

      I couldn’t agree more with you Astha. In fact, I have grave reservations about the idea of reservation itself but that is the fodder of another debate. Anyway, as I mentioned in the article, this write-up was in a specific context; that of the #unManifesto. And I was looking at the term “reservation” in a particular sense here. The #unManifesto and all our grand hopes associated with it might require some sort of an additional “promise” to see them through – I have a feeling that a lack of this promisory word or reservation (to see the ideas put to practice) as we called it in this sense might end up making this manifesto just a theoretical, rhetorical extravaganza, which posterity might or might not choose to consider.

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