Day, Jan 12
Bringing Youth to the Mainstream of Change
It is befitting to
dedicate Vivekananda’s birthday, January 12, to the youth of the country whose entrepreneurial ambition and consumerist desires need be exposed to
countervailing moral and ethical values for bringing sanity to their attitudes
and actions. It makes for a compelling case as today’s youth are fed on a
celebrity overdose in a market-driven consumerist culture.
Unlike other growing economies that face the risk of an
ageing workforce, India is poised to
become the world’s youngest country with 64 per cent of its population in the
working age group by 2020. This ‘demographic dividend’ offers a great
opportunity for the country. Not just
by numbers, the youth make 34% contribution to the country’s Gross
National Income as well.
India’s population is expected to exceed 1.3 billion by 2020
with a median age of 28 which is considerably less than the expected median
ages of China and Japan. The working population of India, is expected to
increase to 592 million by 2020, next only to China (776 million), pointing to
the fact that youth will make a significant contribution to country’s economic
up in a hyper-connected space of the virtual world this aspiration class needs
directions to contribute to the efforts of nation building. Enhancing their
labour force participation in improving productivity will only realize part of
their energies. Since ideology has been substituted by technology, the youth
rarely see the world beyond ‘themselves’.
Such generic transformation has created a generation very
different from any known before. The youth find themselves distanced from the nation-building narrative of the
post-independent era, and locate themselves in a world that is bursting with hope, love and an air of cherubic
optimism. The National Youth Day is thus an opportunity to connect youth to the
ethos of the country.
Although January 12 is celebrated every year as the National
Youth Day since 1985, the youth-targeted schemes and programmes of the
government are predominantly guided by the National Youth Policy 2014 which
seeks “to empower the youth of the country to achieve their full potential, and
through them enable India to find its rightful place in the community of
The Government of India currently invests more than Rs 92,000
Crore per annum on youth development programmes or approximately Rs 2,710 per
young individual per year, through youth-targeted (Rs.37,000 crores for higher
education, skill development, healthcare) and non-targeted (Rs.55,000 crore food
subsidies, employment) programmes.
In addition, the State Governments and a number of other
stakeholders are also working to support youth development and to enable
productive youth participation. However, individual organizations working on
youth issues in non-Government sector are small and fragmented, and there is a
felt need of enhanced coordination between the various stakeholders.
It must, however, be noted that all through history, youth
have been the harbingers of change – from winning independence for nations, to
creating new technologies that upset the status quo, to new forms of art, music
and culture. Supporting and promoting the development of youth therefore is one
of the foremost priorities, across all sectors and stakeholders.
The challenge is
to engage youth in building a cadre that thinks and acts beyond the narrow
confines of ‘self’. The task is to help them rise above the ideology of consumption,
open them to appreciate vast cultural diversity, and create a multi-polar
environment where they effortlessly
embrace differences of religion, sexual orientation and race.
What could be
better than the teachings of Swami Vivekananda to offer philosophical directions
to youth, whose speech at the World's
Parliament of Religions in 1893 had made him popular as 'Messenger of Indian
Wisdom to the Western World’? Vivekananda believed that a country's future depends on its youth, and
his teachings focused on their development.
Bereft of an
ideological baggage than the previous generations, youth of the country are in
a better position to accept such teachings provided these are packaged as
products in the idiom that can be conveniently consumed by the present
generation. Else, this generation will be the next big ‘disruptor’ because they have literally distanced
themselves from the political and social spheres.
A study by J
Walter Thompson offers a ray of hope, though. According to him today’s youth have
seen the flipside of consumption, and are ‘more inspired by Malala than Beyonce’.
This generation is characterized by ethical consumption habits, native digital
technology use, entrepreneurial ambition, and progressive views. What they need
is philosophical guidance in the right direction, and National Youth Day offers
perfect platform to launch youth into the mainstream of ‘change’.
*Dr Sudhirendar Sharma researches
and writes on development issues. The
opinions expressed above are his personal.