how youth are taking ownership of the indian constitution

Posted by 5th Space Making the Other Four Count
January 4, 2018

NOTE: This post has been self-published by the author. Anyone can write on Youth Ki Awaaz.

No matter what age you are, you have probably come across the Indian Constitution. Chances are that you learned about it in a boring classroom lecture and forgot about it. What if you had the chance to explore the constitution through a real life interactive game with other young people like yourself?

This year, hundreds of young people in India are examining their relationship with the Indian constitution through a special effort called Samvidhan LIVE! The Jagrik Project.

What is Samvidhan LIVE! The Jagrik Project?

Samvidhan LIVE! The Jagrik Project is a public initiative which was started by ComMutiny The Youth Collective in 2016. This project is a collaborative effort of youth led and youth engaging organisations from different parts of India.

The initiative helps young people and adolescents to understand and live their fundamental rights and duties which are explained in the Indian Constitution. Young people who participate in this initiative are called Jagriks (a play on the phrase Jagruk Nagrik which means Aware Citizens).

Pairs of Jagriks participate in an interactive game featuring many real tasks over a period of 5 weeks. After engaging in these self and social action tasks, Jagriks come together every week to reflect on their learning through group meetings called Jagrik Jamghats.

By undertaking the Jagrik journey, youth and adolescents build their capacities to practice the values enshrined in the constitution.

Samvidhan LIVE is back again in 2017! This year’s Jagrik journey began on 26 November 2017 already, marking the occasion of Constitution Day and will come to a close on 26 January 2018 on Republic Day.

ComMutiny is collaborating with 22 youth led and youth engaging organisations from 14 states across India for this year’s campaign.

Why was there a need to bring Samvidhan LIVE back?

Last year’s campaign was a resounding success and ComMutiny – The Youth Collective decided to bring it back in 2017 for a number of reasons. Firstly, there has been a great response from organisations and young people who experienced it first hand.

Secondly, there is a clear need to engage young people with the Indian Constitution considering that in the next election, the number of first-time voters in India will be double the size of France’s population. According to a news report published in Business Standard, in the 2019 polls, 133 million youth will get to cast their vote. These statistics clearly reveal that youth as a constituency will be a game changer in the next elections.

Also, amidst the current political climate and the prevailing wave of identity politics, there is a need to prepare young people as aware and conscious citizens. How can a person choose an appropriate response when it comes to addressing various social issues? They can do so easily – simply by following the Indian constitution.

The makers of the Indian Constitution ensured that it covered each possible area that governs a citizen’s life. They intended to make the Constitution a go-to guide for everybody from the common citizen to the lawmakers.

If young people want to engage with others who have different political stances and participate in a healthy democracy, it is imperative that they understand the constitution first and then begin to embody its spirit.

What is the Aarzoo Ka Tarazoo?

Aarzoo Ka Tarazoo is an interactive game played as a part of Samvidhan LIVE. It consists a number of ‘reality tasks’ that are designed as a real life simulation. Jagriks are divided into pairs and they play the game for 5 weeks.

In this game, Jagriks earn points by doing 13 tasks which cover 1 Gender Wild Card, 6 Fundamental Duties and 6 Fundamental Rights. Every week a Jagrik pair rolls two dices – one for duties and the other for rights. They are assigned their reality projects depending on the number against which the dice lands on the game board. 

In the game board, you see a weighing scale which depicts the imbalance between rights and duties. It shows how in real life it is so easy to jump onto the bandwagon that demands rights and make our voices heard. However, the other half of the scale shows that there are just a handful of people who perform their duties with sincere dedication.

Instead of competing with other Jagrik teams, participants support their partners in finishing their tasks.

The fundamental rights tasks give the Jagriks an insight into why citizens need the guarantee of their basic rights. The tasks can be challenging like surviving on a meagre sum of Rs. 32 in a city or village or talking to a different religious leaders to understand why people need the freedom of religion.

Tasks that fall under fundamental duties push Jagriks to realise that all citizens have certain duties that they need to perform apart from their rights. Right from switching gender roles with another person and living their life for a day to spending a night at a shelter for homeless people, these tasks open their eyes to other people’s needs.

Aarzoo Ka Tarazoo Game Board

In 2016, nearly 500 Jagriks played the exciting Samvidhan game Aarzoo ka Tarazoo and brought the Constitution alive in their local area – be it a village, town or a city. They carried out as many as 1500 social and self action tasks simultaneously!

Findings of the Samvidhan Survey

If you as a young person want to become a champion of the Indian constitution, you have to first understand it and live it out on the streets. Once you are aware of your rights and duties provided within the constitution, you will develop the capacity to take positive action on issues that matter to you.

This is why in 2016, ComMutiny – The Youth Collective designed the Samvidhan Survey, which was conducted with 18,000 respondents in 16 states. The aim of the survey was to find out how much citizens understood and practiced the Indian constitution. The survey featured a set of 22 questions structured in the format of a citizen’s report card.

Here is the average national score of the people surveyed in 3 major areas:

  • Constitutional literacy – 36%
  • Action – 51%
  • Inspiring action – 53%

These scores show that a majority of citizens have still not understood the values enshrined in the Indian constitution and have a long way to go.

However, this survey would have been incomplete if the Jagriks were not asked the same questions. A poll conducted with Jagriks showed that they scored were way better than the rest of the citizens after they undertook the Jagrik journey.

Jagriks scored 70% on constitutional awareness, 60% in action and an impressive 78% in inspiring action. This was a big contrast in comparison to the poor score of the 18,000 respondents who had flunked the test.

Apart from this overall rise in awareness and action, the Jagriks also learnt deeper lessons by taking ownership of the Indian constitution.

Lessons from Samvidhan LIVE 2016

Here are some snippets of conversations with Jagriks who shared their learning experiences.

Suruchi Barua, Associate Coordinator, Youth Intervention, Pravah participated in the Jagrik journey in Delhi as a facilitator. She recalled her experience of doing a task where she needed to live on Rs. 32 (poverty line cap) for an entire day to understand the right to equality.

Suruchi said, “It was very difficult to survive for a whole day with that little money. I ended up spending around 55 rupees. I spent most of my money in commuting to and from work. I didn’t eat much at the end of the day. That task helped me understand what living below poverty line entails.”

Tanya from Lucknow who did the same task as Suruchi ran out of 32 rupees by the evening. She spoke to a small restaurant owner about her problem and got free dinner because she had no money to buy food.

Describing her experience of learning the constitution in the school, Tanya said, “When they (teachers) would start teaching the constitution, I would find it very boring. Yet during the Jagrik journey, I enjoyed doing the tasks related to the constitution. I also realised that we love fighting for our rights, but when it comes to our duties, we step back. I believe we should stress on the performance of our duties as much as we demand our rights.”

Some Jagriks like Yash from Madhya Pradesh were able to create a youth manifesto with other young people and talk to their local legislator, something they had never done before. Yash said, “When we finally met the legislator and presented our points, he agreed to accept some of our suggestions.”

The game also had tasks where Jagriks had to step into the shoes of those who often face discrimination in society. Neelam from Jaipur had to experience living as a transgender person for 24 hours.

Neelam said, “I dressed like a transgender person and boarded a bus. I was scared of being harassed so I covered my face with a scarf. When my friends saw me later, they teased me. My parents said I had lost my mind. I understood that we do not really sympathise with transgender people and our words don’t reflect our inner thoughts.”

For other Jagriks like Zeeshan who runs his own non-profit organisation, the lesson learnt was closer home. He said, “When I started my organisation, we wrote a constitution but it remained unused. After participating in the Jagrik journey, my team members and I decided to follow the organisational values we had listed in our constitution. We decided to do a check every few months to find out if we are living our values.”

While these are just a few glimpses of what Jagriks experienced during their journey, they do prove that people learn better by doing things and reflecting upon their actions.

How is Samvidhan LIVE different this year?

Based on last year’s phenomenal response and requests from several organisations across the country, this year’s Samvidhan LIVE has widened its ambit. This year the game will be played by not just young adults but also adolescents in schools and communities.

As the journey begins once again, there is also discussion about the larger long-term vision of Samvidhan LIVE. ComMutiny – The Youth Collective and its partners share a common dream – to institutionalise the Jagrik project through the educational system.

To follow all the action from this year’s Samvidhan LIVE campaign, follow ComMutiny – The Youth Collective on Facebook. If you would like to support Samvidhan LIVE The Jagrik Project through a donation, check the fundraising page Do we know our Constitution? A Reality Check on Ketto.

 

About Vandana, ‘Vandana K is digital content specialist based in New Delhi, India. She writes about positive social action on issues such as youth leadership, responsible business and zero waste.’

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