No one saw this coming. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the course of our lives in a way we only saw in dystopian Netflix series or maybe read about in Margaret Atwood’s novels.
The lockdown fundamentally altered the way we study, work, and communicate, even the way we chill. Caught between several struggles during this time, are young people in India.
Schools and colleges have been shut since March, classes have gone online where they can, self-study has become more important. The job market could not have been more uninviting for those who have just graduated from college. For those with jobs at the beginning of the year, holding on to them became crucial, but also extremely difficult.
All of this, added to the fear of a disease we have no cure for and have lost millions of lives to, and the drastic changes in lifestyle, it is hardly surprising that mental health and personal safety have taken a massive hit.
As India continues to grapple with rising cases amid Unlock 2.0, it becomes crucial to take away lessons from the ‘new normal’ we’ve lived with during over 2 months of lockdown for a better plan of action.
In light of this, the Observer Research Foundation and Youth Ki Awaaz conducted a study to understand the perceptions and experiences of the lockdown among India’s urban youth. It covered almost 5,000 young people between the ages of 18 and 32, living in the country’s largest cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, and Hyderabad.
Reading the findings of this survey has been a fascinating experience for me personally for two main reasons. First, it has been a great learning moment to get an insight into the primary challenges faced by young people in urban India, and the inequalities that we live with.
For example, a key finding has been that 31% students said that their schools or colleges had made no provision for online classes. And for the working respondents, 28% either lost their jobs, were forced to take unpaid leave or a cut in salary.
Secondly, and quite conversely, it has also been a source of solidarity. In this time period where we’re almost literally living in our own bubbles, that sense of isolation and loneliness has invariably crept in. So, in some ways, the findings of this study help you connect, remind you that you’re not alone in this and that there are so many others whose experiences might just be like yours.
Consider this – 88% felt that their mental health had been somewhat or strongly impacted during the lockdown, and 35.7% have felt very lonely during this time, even when 85% were living with family, friends or a significant other.
The findings of this study are extremely important to the world that we now live in. Schools and colleges continue to be shut, a majority of us are still working from home, and probably will for the rest of the year. Access to health care and protection is also limited, with states buckling under the financial pressure to provide healthcare. The data collected through this study can go a long way in redefining Unlock 2.0, and a safer, happier ‘new normal’.
Do drop in a comment below with your thoughts on the report, or better yet, publish your own post to talk about what struck you the most!