This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Ridhima Manocha. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

In Today’s India, Being Young And Political Goes Far Beyond Franchise

More from Ridhima Manocha

“Who all were there in that party?” I ask Kashish while sipping my campus dhaba chai at 4 in the morning. My eyebrows furrowed as I try hard to recall the members of the Janata Dal (Secular) party.

Before she could answer, we see Sameer emerge from silhouette and stand towering over us.

“Yo, what are you two talking about?” He asks while scrolling through Instagram.

“Nothing much, she was just trying to recall some people from a party.”

“Arre, apna Raghu toh premium member pakka hoga. (Oh, I’m sure our dear Raghu is a premium member or something) He goes out every Saturday bro. Just check out his Insta story sometime.” 

Kashish and I look into each other’s eyes and suddenly burst into peals of laughter. It’s been a year since then, but we still manage to get Sameer’s cheeks ruddy by reminding him of how he got a political party and a party confused. However, later, this compelled me to think of a rather scary proposition — is the youth really getting apathetic and detached from the country’s affairs?

First time voters showing their ink stained fingers after casting their votes for Lok Sabha polls on April 24, 2014 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

It’s not surprising then that the confusion that Sameer had is not unique in nature. A lot of young people take pride in calling themselves ‘apolitical’ — as if it’s a valid identity or an existent political belief, and not their privilege. Politics itself has taken the form of a negative connotation that is considered overwhelmingly toxic if engaged with it. News is usually replaced with feed, and dissent at its best ends up as a Facebook comment. ‘Politics’ is always left for someone else to do, for them to complete and finish. ‘Politics’ becomes about someone else.

Albeit, this is rather scary when one studies the demographics of the Indian electorate. 15 million eligible voters are between 18 to 25 years of age. 15 million enough to make a democracy, and enough to erode one. Parties contesting in the 2019 election were quick to recognise their importance as a voter base. PM Narendra Modi acknowledged the importance of first-time voters born at the beginning of the century. In a speech, he said, “They are going to be the creators of the destiny of our nation in the 21st century. I heartily welcome all the youth, honour them and offer my respects to them.”

The Congress too took due care and consideration to include them. In their manifesto for the 2019 election, the Congress promised autonomy, reservations, funds, and students’ rights through a separate bill.

All promises and inclusion are pretty obvious when one examines the age demographic of India. According to a report published by Iris India Foundation, in collaboration with UN-Habitat, India’s median age is set to be 29 years by 2020. This number is also predicted to be in favour of the economy with a marked rise of 2% in GDP, and also comes at a significant time when Japan and China are ageing. However, what will it mean for India in terms of politics, parties, and in fact future, largely depends on how the youth continues taking an interest in politics.

But what exactly do we mean by engaging with politics? Is it just limited to exercising our franchise?  If that’s the case, then the ‘political’ front looks quite encouraging. After the second democratic upsurge in the 1990s, an increase in electoral participation occurred across caste, class, and all genders alike — amongst which, youth were no exception. A cross-sectional survey of the youth population (18-33 years) too found that contrary to popular opinions of alienation and disconnect, the youth are interested in political issues. However, what we need to understand is that merely ‘interest,’ doesn’t always translate to citizens being responsible, accountable watchdogs of democracy — it goes way beyond just exercising the franchise.

One of the crucial indicators of any responsible citizen is how well aware and informed they are. Earlier, newspapers used to be a part of the breakfast of Indian families. However, that has changed dramatically with the decline in habit of reading newspapers, and a consequent shift to apps. With the evolution of technology and better access to news, one would almost expect people to be more informed than ever. However, that too is unfounded by the 2019 Reuters Institute Digital News Report, which identifies the phenomenon ‘news avoidance.’

According to it, while technology has helped increase access to news, it has also made it much easier than ever to avoid news and remain aloof. Further, it has also been recorded in an online survey that whatever snippets of news the young audience consumes, mostly emanate from social media than traditional media. While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with consuming news on social media; the onus to verify the claim, and filter fake news and misinformation, comes upon the consumer. Thus, in times of IT cells being operated by all major parties, what we can, and usually end up consuming, is a biased and polarised version of the news that can directly influence us while voting.

Photo: Lokniti.

Also, what has been observed after the General Election 2019 is that the youth, like any other group, can be easily mobilized based on identity rather than issues. One of the looming issues that could have marked the election was unemployment. Unemployment is the highest it has ever been in the last 45 years with the overall unemployed at 6.1%. This should have been of utmost importance to young voters seeking jobs, yet a survey by Lokniti reveals that young voters gave importance to nationalism over unemployment.

While this analysis might tell us, and not tell us several things about the young voters, what remains undeniable is the power of 15 million of us to not only influence elections but to define politics. We need to take an active interest and engage with politics because that’s what defines us and our lives in turn. We cannot but be an active citizen — questioning, expressing dissent, raising demands and standing for our rights and duties, and making the politics about you, me, about us. About things we care about — unemployment, empowerment, women safety, climate change, farmers’ welfare, and not purely fall for canards and frequent rhetoric used by politicians.

Here, we stand at a crucial juncture in the face of the future where our choices will define our country in unfathomable ways. Remember for every vote and choice we make, we are building India brick by brick, and this is the foundation that will exist for several future generations. The choice is yours, the choice is youth!

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.
You must be to comment.

More from Ridhima Manocha

Similar Posts

By pratyush prashant

By Ishaan Bansal

By Yashvi Mittal

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below