India is a country with an abundance of resources. Our development, to a large extent, depends on these resources and human power working efficiently.
India is known the world over for its diversity, vibrant cultures, heritage, the prevalence of agriculture, and being the ‘youngest country’. But it is also known for the delay in services, improper governance, youth unemployment, violence towards women, and high levels of pollution in its cities. The recent initiatives by the Government of India in several streams have helped India to move towards more effective governance and innovative problem-solving.
My ‘Idea of India’ is centred on how a participatory democracy can develop a country holistically. A participatory democracy means the media, research institutions, leaders, bureaucrats, policymakers, governments, and every citizen collaborate towards achieving a common goal. To make a participatory pattern in the country, we need a practical strategy that works from the grassroots. We know that a District Planning Committee (DPC)- a constitutionally recognised planning body – plays a key role in bottom-up planning in every state government. But, in reality, there are no active DPCs in states like Telangana or Tamil Nadu. Therefore, there is no active local leadership or participation in gram sabhas.
To reduce the inefficiencies mentioned above, we might form a strong multidisciplinary team of young professionals. Understanding the intricacies of government policies is just one requirement. Bringing in knowledge from various fields is another. Members should be diverse – sociologists, psychologists, political leaders, political and financial analysts, environmentalists, health professionals, educators, lawyers, journalists, scientists, entrepreneurs, feminists, and local government representatives.
This team can be altered as per the sectional area, from local governments to the Centre. And these would be its tasks:
Sometimes government schemes don’t meet their targets because of data gaps. To remove these, the Young Policymakers Team can gather, collate, and study information from various public institutions, as well as independent research, academic journals, and websites.
Real-time information will be gathered through participatory methods like interviews, observations, surveys, and more. Then follows a comparison of secondary data and field-specific data. In tandem, there must be a discussion involving academicians, professionals, elected members and other stakeholders.
We can achieve this through three methods: the use of participatory techniques; mapping government initiatives; and preparing a draft document of findings.
Techniques like social mapping, resource mapping, ‘Problem Tree’ analysis, and seasonal mapping an help capture the needs and concerns of different categories, like youth, adolescents, adults, women, people from SC/ST groups, people with disabilities and more.
The next step is studying the official response to these. Establishing partnerships with relevant government agencies and other stakeholders (community organisations, NGOs, development organisations) can help devise initiatives and interventions.
And the final step for the team, after collating data (from both the use of participating techniques and mapping of the initiatives), is to prepare a Draft document, to be circulated among opinion makers, seeking their views.
These three measures will be the basis for a priority discussion among the team on how to strengthen the system.
The task of the Young Policymakers Team will be to identify the problems of leaders in local governments and create leadership enhancement strategies. To that end, it would be helpful to partner with the National Institute of Rural Development, the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development and others that work on leadership enhancement in village panchayats. These Institutions can frame training programmes in such a way that leaders gain immense knowledge about village panchayats, their importance, functions, areas of priority, and funds generations. Even people who may be illiterate should be able to actively participate in the gram sabhas.
The Team should also take an interest in making women aware of their powers in the village panchayat. Women must know how to involve themselves in village development planning, in improving the standard of living, how to be part of the implementation process, as well as monitor and evaluate projects.
Vigorous efforts are needed to realise the potential of women – one of these is the importance of 33% reservation for women in panchayats, while another is to make women entrepreneurs and promote self-help groups and cooperatives.
The Government of India has recently launched visionary policies for youth development. Take initiatives like Jan Dhan Yojana, MUDRA, Digital India, Start-Up India, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojna (Skill enhancement of Youth especially SC/ST, backward groups, women), or Stand up India (which promotes entrepreneurship among SC/ST and women by giving loans in the range of Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 1 Cr). Each has benefitted several youths in the country. Unfortunately, its effects are not uniform. Rural areas still fall behind, because of the local governments’ lack of awareness. The Youth Team can partner with these governments to raise awareness about career development opportunities. It can also create a database about a youth’s qualifications (through Employment Card Generation offices). Selection agencies can recruit youths, and provide skill enhancement course or entrepreneurial support.
The recent National Policy of Education, 2016, is a visionary document holistic youth development. Under it, educational Institutions must include counsellors or psychologists to motivate children to realise their potential. It also recommends introducing social work programmes for youth to give back to grassroots development
Of the many public institutions, the health sector needs an overhaul. The majority of Indian citizens spend 20 to 30 per cent of their income on health. Due to several problems at government hospitals, many are turning towards private hospitals which charge exorbitant amounts of money for health services.
India has allocated crores of rupees to improving public health. Our government hospitals have excellent doctors. But we still face major problems like poor infrastructure, delay of the arrival of medical equipment, work overload, and inadequate support staff.
To make the system smooth, the Youth Team, which consists health experts, psychologists, resource management experts, social workers, and local government specialists can approach local leaders, district administration, and local citizens. Together, they can work with local medical college institutions, Corporate Social Responsibility institutions, philanthropists, and NGOs, to provide affordable medical services. An active District Planning Committee (comprising of the Health Superintendent or health officials, local leaders, local governments, district administration) can substantially improve things.
All the above might be challenging, but the sincere, coordinated efforts of a youth-led team can make a huge change. This means opportunities for our youth to flourish, youth participation in political leadership, breaking the glass ceiling, good governance, and a healthy environment.
Villages can become self-sufficient, with better agriculture, infrastructure, education, health, and empowering women. And was that not the dream of figures like Gandhi, Tagore, Jayaprakash Narayan, and Vinoba Bhave?