Youth is often one of the most gifted periods of one’s lifetime, given that everybody on the planet longs for it to last long. And what better time than to be one in 2020 (despite the COVID-19 pandemic) in India, which tops the world’s largest youth population of around 670 million. Literally, India is the only country on the planet to house such a massive number of young people below the age of 25.
When it comes to politics, there is a general opinion that there are not many youths interested in entering the political arena, or is it that India’s electoral system is making them rethink. The answer is both yes and no. We have seen many young people agreeing or disagreeing on individual political decisions on social media either through their what’s app status or Twitter or memes or YouTube channels.
But what about converting those concerns into real actions. The answer is getting young people to gain political representation. As plain as it appears to be, the youth of today’s India are global citizens who are never alien to global youth movements like Fridays for Future, Global Model United Nations, and the recent #BlackLivesMatter protests. Ironically, When it comes to useful information or clear cut know-how of making it to the candidates’ list of the Electoral Voting Machine, googling alone is not enough. However, a new youth-led organisation called Young India Foundation (YIF in short) has risen to the cause.
Young India Foundation is a political organization founded in 2017 by an international youth rights activist. Sudhanshu Kaushik is doing what it takes to make India’s youth participate in electoral democracy right from panchayat to parliament as their website claims.
For the record, YIF is making Independent young candidates contest elections by helping them right from nomination paperwork, campaign design, trend analysis, and importantly election manifesto. All this without getting a penny from the candidate, and these efforts are not without results. In 2018, Sneha, a sarpanch from Sonipat in Haryana and Jagbir, a panch from Fatehpur in Uttar Pradesh, managed to become one, thanks to the presence and efforts of YIF. They have a story to tell about the struggles endured in each phase of making a young candidate to contest.
YIF is currently focusing on grassroots political participation like panchayat and local body elections but plans to expand its service for assembly and parliamentary elections in the future. YIF has it’s own think tank team, and the website also hosts its election calendar based on months of the upcoming elections in every state of India.
YIF has regularly conducted boot camps for breaking the ceiling about contesting each year since it’s inception, and last year, it was conducted in Delhi. The latest session conducted virtually(happening as I write) during the pandemic had sessions ranging from registering as a candidate, election campaign laws, politics and advocacy, campaign finance, local political participation, and designing a winning campaign.
The notable speakers of the latest edition were Sudipto Sircar, an advocate of the Supreme court of India, Tara Krishnaswamy advocate, and co-founder of Shakti, a women’s representation organisation and Shivam Vij, a political journalist at The Print and the Huffington Post.
Recently, YIF launched its flagship “Local Representative program” across the nation in a bid to get young people across the nation to play an active role in their locality. The program is about developing leaders at the local level by making the youth to serve as a liaison between the youth, the community, and YIF.
The program brochure also briefs about being front-facing role with emphasis on disseminating information and organising events pertaining to youth-led political issues. The program also discusses YIF local Reps in touch with local bureaucrats and politicians. This looks a first of its kind program in India by actively involving young people to speak about and take issues at their wards or localities or even districts.
The Tactic followed here is interesting since the program encourages leadership capabilities and out of the box thinking in young people going forward from 2020, where new-age skills are required for new age leaders. This also eliminates the popular perception that new candidates will somehow emerge during the elections and bring a change. Instead, it cultivates in youth more responsible confidence evoking skills, which will help them face people and address issues. Also, if they become elected representatives, the changeover will be much simpler since they started right at the local level.
Overall, regardless of the outcomes of this initiative, this will encourage more young people to change their perceptions about politics and pave the way for active political participation, not just contesting but also active citizenship roles. Just like young people around the world are the leading changemakers, India will have its share of young leaders entering the political landscape in the coming days and years as the new age dawns post COVID-19 and in need of their skills and wisdom.
Last year Sudhanshu Kaushik was featured in Ted Nayi Soch hosted by Shah Rukh Khan where he discussed the political future of Indian Youth.