Monthly Archives: June 2013

Challenge for Today’s Youth: Transforming Conflict and Building Peace

“Peace is not a dream; it is hard work, and there is nothing naive, glamorous or simplistic about it.”-Dr. Oscar Arias, Nobel Laureate in Peace

As a student of Conflict Transformation and Peace Building, I was told that we are always in the process of Conflict. It amused me. I seldom witnessed conflict around me, then how can we be in the ‘process of Conflict always’? Then my mentor introduced me to the concept of Pre-Conflict stage and Post-Conflict stage. It gave me some food for thought.

Every society in various nation states is always amidst Conflict- it may be in the pre-conflict stage or post-conflict stage or witnessing conflict as it happens. It becomes important to realise that conflict is ever present. When we realise that there are different stages of Conflict, then we will understand that it becomes essential to engage in the process of Peace Building. Conflict resolution is not the final solution but Conflict Transformation is what we must look forward to. We may feel ‘resolution’ will bring end to conflict, but that can be a temporary pause. We, as a peaceful society, must aim at ‘transforming’ a conflict to a peaceful stage.

Gandhi used to say ‘Non-violence is older than the mountains.’ This introduces us to another concept that it is not conflict which is natural but non-violence. If we realise this then we come closer to the fact that conflict transformation is not a myth but a reality, a reality which has been less explored in our recent history which is marked by violence as a distinct feature.

Role of Youth in transforming Conflict

Potential of youth has never been realised in our part of the world, or for that matter in most societies. But youth has immense potential to not only transform conflict but create a peaceful society. The world today, as we see, has been designed by the young energetic people over centuries and millenniums. It is the young who has mental elasticity to think against the grains and physical ability to perform humongous tasks. The youth needs to realise this. It is sad that we do not have a leadership of young people which is willing to give a peaceful solution to the problems of present era.

According to the Global Peace Index, our part of the world- South Asia- is one the most violent regions in the world which is marked by internal conflicts. In India alone we have pressing conflicts in various tribal areas, Naxalism, the issue of Salwa Judum, the Kashmir conflict, the conflict in North East, the issue of ghettoization, et cetera. They demand extra ordinary solutions for a peaceful future. Involvement of youth in these conflicts forms a characteristic feature, which is a matter of serious concern.

Few scholars suggest that we need a mechanism through which we can use the potential of youth who are part of the conflict to transform the conflict. This is a task which requires extra ordinary planning and execution. Well, extra-ordinary problems need extra-ordinary solutions!

Involving the youth from the conflict prone areas can have numerous positive consequences. As they are from the same conflict area they know the ground realities and conflict better than anybody else. Young people from the conflict prone areas can attract many other young people from the same area to start a better living. Apart from this, it is also very important to give a positive direction to their immense energy. They have a longer life to lead and it becomes important to create a mechanism where they have a positive and peaceful life and set an example for the future generation to come.

At the same time it is important for different civil societies to pitch in and act with the young people from different backgrounds in order to indulge in the process of conflict transformation. We have few extremely positive success stories from the past which can be case studies for various organisations indulging in the process of peace building. But we need to know that every problem in society is unique and requires a unique solution.

Recognising the parties in Conflict

When indulging in the process of peace building, the youth needs to engage in a process of dialogue with every party in conflict, but it must recognise the parties first. There can be conflicts which are inter-state in nature and there can be others which are intra-state in nature. We cannot understand the conflict of Naxal areas if we do not recognise Indian state as a party in conflict against the tribal people. Similarly Naxal leadership also needs to be seen as a party with whom dialogue needs to be established in order to reach a better tomorrow. The same goes with Kashmir issue and the North-East issue or any other issue which involves many people as its stakeholders.

Conclusion

A better tomorrow lies in the hand of people who take the initiative of building peace, or rather discovering peace amidst the conflict. The youth of the nation not only possess the power to build a better tomorrow but also to create a beautiful future for the coming generations. It certainly requires guidance. For this we need to have a leadership of the young people who respect other young people and lead a change. I see many young people around me, with proper understanding of the era of conflict in which we live. I am sure these change makers will lead our part of the world on a path of peaceful joy and love for all.

Martin Luther King Jr., wrote in ‘A Testament of Hope’, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”  I agree with him today and know that this will be true one day.

Let me end this essay with a song by John Lennon,

“Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You, You may say I’m a dreamer,

but I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us,

And the world will live as one”

 

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How Youth can engage with Politics via Social Media

Ayesha Siddiqa, renowned scholar from Pakistan, in an interview says, “Our middle class is increasingly becoming apolitical, on both sides of the border. They may have an opinion but that doesn’t make them political. They are apolitical firstly. Secondly, they are into this identity mantra which they don’t even understand. The question is “where do I belong?” So the identity in that way becomes very political commodity. Used for manipulation. So that’s what social media does, most of the time- manipulate.” (http://nihalparashar.blogspot.in/2012/05/interview-ayesha-siddiqa-on-india.html).

Siddiqa was correct in her assertion. Our middle class- especially a major section of the youth is increasingly becoming apolitical. Alienation from politics is a part of the characteristic of this emerging youth. Ironically, this segment of society gets updated about politics via Facebook and/or Twitter. Needless to say few hyperactive politicians and organisations have hijacked our social media platforms and their PR machinery is so strong that they have a virtual presence all over. They have attracted the younger population of the country (I am talking about those who have an access to internet; many do not have in our part of the world and thus we must not generalise things) and have forced people to see the society through the coloured lens provided by them. Sad, indeed sad!

In this scenario can we expect our youth to utilise social media for, simply put, to engage with the politics? Yes, we must.

I feel the situation is not too bleak right now. And this is the right time to engage with the younger generation. Just because some people have used the digital platforms in a certain way does not mean we cannot use it in a better way. In fact there are many smaller groups who are using Social Media to not only to reach out to larger audience but also use it for disseminating critical information related to politics and society. There are many voluntary groups who are using social media to help the people affected in Uttarakhand. One such group on facebook is Boond (https://www.facebook.com/groups/177423459059843). These pages and groups are not apolitical. They are discussing politics and are also trying to educate the younger generation about the same.

We need to define ‘Politics’ to engage with it. Politics is just not participating in the annual ritual called election. It is an ongoing process and requires effort from each section of the society to contribute in making of a better society. It is not just about making of a better society but also creating of better opportunities for everybody to be a part of the process. Social media gives an opportunity to be vocal about what you feel; debate on what you feel needs to be changed and engage in conversations with like and not-so-likeminded people. Certainly it helps in the process of building a better ‘democracy’ and it is high time we realise this!

Post by:Nihal Parashar 

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It’s Time For The Youth To Be The Lotus Of Indian Politics

What can be more noble and satisfying than leading your nation on the path of progress?  Even the challenge of being the CEO of the biggest blue chip company will pale in comparison.  There is no reason why politics should not attract the best minds in the country.  To be a politician, one needs a vision, intelligence and knowledge of political processes, combined with a hands-on approach to grassroots problems.  Politics can teach you as much as lectures in a closed hall can and can be as attractive a career option as any other.

However, sadly, politics today has earned its reputation for being a ‘dirty field’.  The newspapers are flooded with details of scams such as Coalgate, 2G and CWG to name a few.  In this paradoxical situation where law makers have consistently become law-breakers, is it any surprise then that the vicious circle completes itself and that it is only the law breakers who qualify to become the law makers of the country?

In our society, parents have traditionally given primacy to the conventional and lucrative career options (engineers, doctors or investment bankers). In a scenario where people have lost faith in their leaders, the government and in politics in general, why then would an educated thinking parent encourage his or her child to venture into the jungle of politics? The widely held view is that politics is not even in the league of alternate career options for bright children whose potential can be leveraged in better ways; politics is for corrupt and immoral bigots, a ‘dhanda’ of ‘chors’ and ‘goondas’.

Until about two decades ago, perceptions about entrepreneurship were equally disparaging. The common view was that entrepreneurs can succeed only if they are corrupt and have a powerful `godfather’ to back them up. With the opening up of the Indian economy and rapid globalisation, these perceptions have changed.  The youth is choosing to give up high paying jobs and follow their passion. The success stories scripted by some of these bright young entrepreneurs have become legends today: Narayana Murthy, Dhirubhai Ambani and Sabeer Bhatia being some of them.  And hopefully, one will see a similar sort of revolution in politics.

With its huge demographic dividend, India is probably the youngest democracy today.  In 2000, about 350 million Indians were in the age group 15-34 years and this number is set to increase to 485 million by 2030, say reports.  By 2020, the average Indian will be 29 years, as compared to 37 years in China, 45 in Europe and 49 in Japan. On the other hand, the average age of an MP is currently 63 years.  In a 543-member strong parliament, there are only 66 MPs below 40 years and just 30 MPs below 35 years.  Representative democracy?  I really don’t think so.

Clearly, the youth plays a vital role as stakeholders of what is probably the world’s youngest democracy.  It is only logical then that we need a larger number of youth in political forums to represent the aspirations of this vast section of society.  While we need the experience and wisdom of seasoned politicians who are now in their twilight years, the exuberance of the youth, their lateral thinking to get things done will offer a whole new perspective to the many problems that the country faces today. But unfortunately, there are only two types of youth that participate in politics today, what I like to call the princelings and the thuglings.

The princelings are those who make a career in politics because their fathers, grandfathers or uncles did so.  65 per cent of the MPs below 35 years and all of the MPs below 30 years in India fall in this category.  These walk into politics on the legacy of their previous generation(s), they need no qualifications or track record to prove themselves. They are the `blue-eyed protégés’ of Indian politics:  Rahul Gandhi, Varun Gandhi, Sachin Pilot, Omar Abdullah and Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia to name a few. The thuglings on the other hand rule the roost in student unions and youth wings, shouting slogans, vandalizing places and resorting to violence at the slightest opportunity.  They are aggressive, brazen and loud. If they are backed by an influential godfather, they may witness a meteoric rise in their careers, else they remain confined to the lower rungs of the party they are affiliated to.  For most of them, any ambitions of reaching the position of a Gandhi or a Yadav will die a rather slow and painful death.

The Indian youth is aware of the problems that our country faces today; their fiery passion was visible when millions got together in New Delhi to support Anna Hazare in his crusade against corruption and later to protest against the December 2012 gang-rape. Irom Sharmila and Chhawi Rajwat stand as an inspiration for the youth in areas such as Manipur and Rajasthan.

Despite this willingness to engage, politics is not a desirable career option for most young people, and will not be for a long time.  So what is the solution?  Well, unless the youth jump into the dirt of Indian politics and manage to stay clean, how is the system ever going to change?  We need to develop a critical mass of young, honest and successful politicians so that they can become a motivational role model for others to follow.

Demonstrations, protests, street plays and candle-light marches can raise awareness and focus attention on burning issues but ultimately, the power to bring change rests with those who sit in Parliament.  Somebody has to take the first step; these path-breakers or early leaders have to be the lotus of Indian politics: they must remain shining despite the murky whirlpool around them.  Only then can we expect to see a change in Indian politics.

The question remains: who will take the first plunge?

Post By:Rhea Kumar

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Creative Writing Course: The Charbagh, Delhi

The Creative Writing Course at the British Council, Delhi attracts people from all walks of life. Bankers, entrepreneurs and lawyers meet college students, research scholars and even retired civil servants, who are united solely by their desire to pen their thoughts and churn out the story lying dormant in them.

Ajay Todi is one such student who, in his own words, ‘had a truly memorable time’ during the course. Ajay was so moved by what he says is the ‘spirit of goodwill’ in the institution that he has penned a poignant story around the ‘Charbagh’ which is the inner courtyard at the Council and our very own ‘Garden of five senses’. His descriptions will strike a chord with anyone who has spent time in the Charbagh.

Teacher-author Kalpita Sarkar's Creative Writing class, Delhi

Teacher-author Kalpita Sarkar’s Creative Writing class

“Have you seen an oasis ?
Have you seen an oasis of calm in the middle of Delhi?”

Even before I could squeak my weak nays to these seemingly inane questions, Bubble had already put one arm around my shoulder and ushered me into the sanctum sanctorum, lavishly called Charbagh. Falling in love was something I’d done several years ago; I was sensing one more opportunity already.

It truly seemed like an oasis of calm in the middle of a maddening city. The petite fountain spread its plume of crystal clear water, ruffled every now and then by the gusts of in-disciplined wind blowing either which way. The muscular Goliath pillars refused to smile, as they dutifully stood tall, perhaps asserting their supremacy as the worldly beings strutted around the hallowed ground – some aimlessly, others with dreamy eyes.

I noticed the brunette on the wall eyeing me with her burnished gaze. “Oh, it’s the face of the five senses”, Bubble exclaimed; the magnificent statue occupying pride of prominence in a place so surreal; charming to some, a source of jealousy for others. Fresh clean air filled my lungs, rebounding off the red stone blocks that adorn the majestic façade of the modern building that lies beyond.

The young palms in the corner soil-beds twist with joy, eagerly trying to catch high-fives with the swaying creeper vines that appeared to extend promises to meet them tonight. Amour at Charbagh under the summer sun? I’m game for a bet. Unable to straighten their stiff necks, tall poor-cousin skyscrapers alongside cast their furtive glances sideways, jealously eyeing the luck that this revered piece of earth enjoys; so near, yet so far – oh, to have been born in Charbagh.

And then the crows appeared; perched on the western wall, awaiting their turn; perhaps eager to amplify the din of traffic horns that has so far failed to disturb the tranquillity. All by itself, the peacock looks away in the distance, trying to catch a glimpse of its companion flying far on the horizon; while the bunch of ivy parrots search for a branch to rest; perhaps time for them to recover from the devastation caused by the now sulking bearded langur looking away with guilt written large.

The clutter of china breaks my thought – spruced in the corner, waiting for the napkins to arrive before they dish some healthy nourishment to eager rounded gourmands. Perhaps the grease would give them their deliverance for the day. With spotless white aprons, the freckled stewards try their best to mimic the MasterChef starcast; not that it matters. I am beginning to feel my stomach churn.

Bubble looked cherubic as ever with the soothing sun playing hide and seek on her cheeks; the chairs under the large brown umbrellas were far more comfortable than I’d thought; to think of it, I’d always preferred the stone benches under the winter sun. Summer was on
its way, I thought.

In the western corner, the aroma of coffee and muffins escapes through the half-opened window where the chirpy girls are unable to decide on their next rendezvous. “Care for a bite?” I could hardly hear Bubble amidst my stupor. “Oh, sure”, I said almost instinctively although not the least bit hungry – thoroughly satiated by the grandeur of the “Classic” meeting “Modernity” in a setting I had least imagined.

Ajay Todi
——————————–

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No Task or Classroom Lesson, but can Volunteerism be inculcated better in our Society?

You can take the horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink. You can intimate people of the sordid details of the kind of hardship those around them undergo, but you can’t force them to be moved. Selflessness is not something one can inculcate in people through classes or workshops. Like aptitude, you’re either born with it or not. It’s not something you learn from people or from books. Volunteerism needs to hit home harder with the particular causes it supports before it can be absorbed better into our thinking, lifestyles and disciplines. The spirit of giving back and doing something for others can come only from within. And it can come only when you truly feel for issues, or if you have ever been directly affected by them. The only way volunteerism can be encouraged better is not by forcing it down people’s throats or by ensuring a certificate, but by making it an enriching experience. It needs to be something people look forward to, since in some ways, like leisure, it gives you time to introspect and think. It is also non academic or work related, and takes your mind off the stress surrounding everyday things. Organisations need to plan their framework better, as offering experiences both satisfactory and educative. Through regular and well planned activities, sessions and maybe trips, they need to make their volunteers believe that they’re doing something productive while supporting a cause. Volunteer schedules need to be better planned and more fun. They should challenge faculties, without stressing the volunteers out. Only then will people be motivated better. In our society where everyone is pressed for time and energy, volunteerism needs to emerge as something that throws a gauntlet at people while making it an experience they would cherish. Its pursuit needs to give one the opportunity to learn, discover and grow.  Only when volunteerism develops into a space that is considered to do good for both its volunteers and those it supports will it be absorbed into our society. Volunteerism need not be taken as a task. It’s no classroom, there is no pressure and there are no deadlines to adhere to. It should give one the freedom to explore and seek new meanings for oneself. At the same time, it should help one discover those meanings by engaging with people and in discussions that stimulate our energies. Volunteerism has great potential. We need to break stereotypes of how only people who have nothing else to do go ahead to ‘change the world’. Volunteerism can be as much about you, as it is about the people and issues you work with. It also need not be something boring that you want to get over with. As and when organisations manage to redefine volunteerism and people learn to see volunteerism in its true enriching light, it’ll find itself better inculcated in our society. Post By : Lata Jha

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GAIN MORE THAN GOODWILL: WHAT DOES ONE EXPECT WHILE VOLUNTEERING TODAY?

Life is no bed of roses. It doesn’t give one too much reason to be happy, and consequently, kind to the world. Or so we at least feel. Which is why, empathy, solidarity, charity and volunteerism are dying arts today. I wouldn’t have the time or inclination to volunteer just to be able to ‘give back to the world’. It would have to do more than that for me. It would have to tap a side to me that I didn’t know of myself. Like any other experience in life, it would have to offer me fruit, not material, but valuable and enriching in some way.

Volunteerism needs to get over its ‘be the Good Samaritan’ policy. It needs to be a learning, educative experience. One would be motivated to try volunteering only if it offered new insights, ideas and the potential to discover. That it helps support a cause along the way would be an added incentive, something I’m sure no one would shy away from.  A certificate, most can manage very easily. But experience comes the hard way and lasts for a lifetime.

Volunteerism needs to challenge people, like any other pursuit in life. It needs to make them feel like they have to constantly be on their toes. Volunteerism does not call for a laidback attitude, as one would think. And all this while distancing it completely from academic and job arenas in its approach, to make it fun and vocation oriented. That people have something completely different to look forward to in life at the end of the day, devoid of pressure or schedules, would be an incentive. It would help people de-stress without making them complacent.
On the other hand, volunteerism could often lead to career decisions, show one the way, help one find oneself. One could discover things one didn’t know about oneself, or one had no way of knowing.

Knowingly or unknowingly, volunteerism could also be therapeutic. It could serve as an opportunity for people to move away from things that life is forcibly or normatively encumbered under, and seek new beginnings. It could help them gain something truly priceless while giving back to the world. Volunteerism could also often be about imparting and sharing skills. Painting, singing, dancing, puppetry or gardening, there are so many things so many people want to learn and teach, but have not had the time or chance to. Volunteerism could end up making you feel better about yourself and help a few others, and give you an excuse to do something you love.

In other words, one expects volunteerism to have a purpose beyond the goodwill factor today. One expects value and experiences for one’s time. One expects challenges and lessons. It’s not about the selfishness that one would think is creeping into something as ‘noble’ as volunteering, but the fact that times, needs and attitudes have changed. Just like organisations require more involved, conscientious and enthusiastic volunteers, people themselves seek more constructive experiences while volunteering. You give some, you gain some.

By : Lata Jha

 

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CAN THE GOOD DEED COME FROM THE HEART? WHAT WOULD MOTIVATE PEOPLE TO VOLUNTEER?

If selflessness were a human embodiment, it would be an honest, upright cop for sure. So difficult to find, you’d think their kind is almost extinct, except for the potboilers. Society today has long moved from its selfless instincts. Volunteering, from what I can guess, is a little more than getting a certificate. It is mandatory in certain places and that is the only reason people make an effort. And why would someone like you and me want to devote a substantial amount of time to something that hardly seems to reap anything for us? We are all already pressed for time. There’s enough stress already with school, college, work and commitments at home. Doing the good deed can always wait for a more convenient time. One doesn’t have to kill oneself for the good of the world is what most would think.

And even if life isn’t that stressful, one always has better things to do. Volunteering is not something one would give priority to, simply because it doesn’t tend to take us anywhere. We’re all for the uplift of the world, and we might even pledge our financial support. But our time and effort are not things we can promise.

What can be done to promote volunteerism?

  • Charitable and non-profit organisations should today try and go beyond the do-good-be-good formula. They need to make it exciting and challenging for volunteers and for those they serve. Volunteerism doesn’t have to be about being good and selfless in a boring way. It should give as much of a chance to learn and discover as any other pursuit.
  • Field trips could be an exercise. If it’s an NGO that works with kids, for instance, both the children and the volunteers would enjoy some time out. They should try to do something that is not gruelling or heavy on the pocket; a trek maybe? Or an excursion to some place little known. It would involve research, not much else.
  • Organisations that promote creativity (in any form) should plan exhibitions, of paintings, photos. There should be constant activity involved. Interesting exercises would make volunteers feel both involved and upbeat. It would be something they look forward to after school/college/work. Their inputs should be taken, and considered. They should be made to feel part of the cause and endeavour, and not just people there with a purpose. Their selfish instincts should be curbed.
  • Volunteers should be encouraged to feel strongly about issues. They should have sessions with the organisation as to how the concern on hand could be tackled in the long run. If for instance, it’s an organisation devoted towards sex workers suffering from HIV/AIDS, they should be encouraged to visit these people, talk to them, report on their experiences. Journals and blogs could be attempted, maybe even cultural programmes for them.

The drain on funds would be a problem for sure. NGOs could possibly join hands for this. They could take one step at a time, moving from community to city to country. The kinds of causes they espouse certainly deserve attention. And volunteerism should be a lot about feeling one with the cause, working for and towards it, and not just for the organisation.

Selflessness is hardly something you can hope to inculcate in people, especially people as strong and driven of our generation. The only way you can get them to join a movement is to make them feel like what they are doing for it counts. Their time counts, so does their effort. It is not something they can abandon and move on after the summer vacation is over. It’s a spirit they shall carry with themselves all their lives.

Post By: Lata Jha

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National Youth Policy: 6 Ways The Government Can Make Youth Matter

A glance at the National Youth Policy Draft 2012 will tell you how poorly done is The Piece of Policy. With very little focus on enforcing other ministries working with the youth to implement their strategies and recognize different diversities of youth, or implement their programs, the policy formation process is at question. Does holding a bunch of consultations with organizations working with young people qualify for enough representation of the youth? I do not believe so. Moreover, most of the people involved in the consultation process for the formation of the policy come with their respective experience baggage and are not youth themselves – as per how the Indian Government defines young people.

There is a need for a deeper understanding of the needs of young people and a more cohesive process needs to be put into place for the formation of the national youth policy.

Below are 6 ways through which the Indian Government can form a better, more informed and more consultative National Youth Policy in India.

1) Urban youth outreach through social media: If the PMO can reach out to Twitter users for recommendations for a 5th year plan, and if the Justice Verma committee can make use of emails and Facebook for public recommendations on the rape law, the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs can definitely create channels through social media to seek mass recommendations from young people across the country through Facebook and Twitter. Putting out a series of questions that are simplified and put forth in layman language through a period of time can enable various sections of young people to engage with the Ministry and share opinions on what the needs of young people are.

2) Using volunteer forces to do offline consultations: If the Commonwealth Games can create a cohort of over 10,000 volunteers in Delhi alone, I am sure the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs can create a channel of at least a 1000 volunteers in 28 states, who target 100 young people each for a survey with multiple questions. The ministry can make use of Government colleges, Municipal schools and universities to create channels for these volunteers to engage with young people and seek recommendations from them.

3) A team of young researchers for data assessment: Once the data is collected through online and offline channels, a team of young and talented researches who come with the latest knowledge of data assessment can be put to use to analyse this data and come up with the top 20 recommendations that have been most talked about by a majority of young people. Once these recommendations are set in place, they can be worked upon from a policy level, and the National Youth Policy can have more specific expert consultations on these topics to finalize 10 to 15 final inclusions in the National Youth Policy, and put out the draft for review.

4) Regional review groups: Once the draft has been put out and the recommendations have been given to various ministries, central and state governments, the Government can make use of the same volunteer force, or recruit a small regional staff with more expertise who work on a state by state level to review whether the state governments are implementing the policy at their level or not. The sole task of this review group will be to monitor the functioning of the youth ministry cells at the state level and review and asses their performance on an yearly basis. At the end of every year, this group can file a review report to the Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs about the situation in the respective states, and give suggested solutions to be implemented for a better functioning of the youth policy recommendations.

5) Awareness drive through national, regional and community media: Last but not the least, out of the funds that the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs receives, it should set out a chunk of it to invest in awareness drives through national media, regional media as well as community specific media to reach out to young people across the board and inform them about their rights, the facilities offered to them, and the recommendations by the Ministry, and generate interest in civic participation and various other aspects of the National Youth Policy. As is evident from the poll conducted by Youth Ki Awaaz here, nearly 80% young people have no clue that something like the National Youth Policy even exists.

6) Consult youth organizations on setting indicators: This is precisely where experienced youth organizations and NGOs can be consulted. The National Youth Policy needs to work on certain indicators and criteria for the survey, and the above 5 points should be used to collect the exact needs of young people against these indicators.

It’s high time young people are given opportunities and platforms to become better and more informed stakeholders in the way the democracy functions.

Post By: Anshul Tewari

 

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India deserves a better National Youth Policy

As a citizen of the country I was amused to know that my government has a policy relevant to the youth – National Youth Policy of India. Naturally, I was intrigued to know more about it. To start with, I did a Google research on the policy. The results were varied and primarily related to the media coverage of unveiling of the NYP by Minister Ajay Maken a year back. There were few results about the change in the draft of the policy or related news. This was not to say that I couldn’t obtain a copy of the NYP 2012 from the Youth Affairs and Sports ministry website.

When you read the NYP 2012, in the very initial pages (it is just 27 page long policy) you will notice that it is a bit progressive as it acknowledges youth with diverse background and does not consider youth of the nation as a homogenous group. It clearly divides youth in three age brackets- 16 to 21 years, 21 to 25 years and 26 to 30 years. The earlier version broadly considered people in the age group of 13 to 35 years as youth- in some parts of the country father and son- both- could be part of the same ‘youth’-ful group. This is not the case in the present draft and it clearly acknowledges that people from different age groups have different problems to which the ministry needs to cater. It also acknowledges that urban youth has different needs when compared to rural youth, and similarly tribal youth will have different needs from the other two brackets. But that’s all it has to offer. There are hardly proper implementation policies suggested by the makers of NYP 2012.

It is important to note that although this policy states that it is consistent with other national policies and plans, it is difficult to believe as no other ministry recognises youth in the same manner. This policy does no good for the same as it hardly suggests any concrete plan to convey its fundamental values to other ministries. It has a few general ‘instructions’ but no plans. How do we expect the other ministries to treat the youth in a better way if they do not even acknowledge the soul of NYP 2012? We cannot have a good future with such oxymoron in the system.

Interestingly the ‘Thrust Areas’ section of the policy picks few interesting points but is not able to suggest proper implementation policy. For instance in section 7.1- titled ‘Promotion of National Values, Social Harmony and National Unity’-, it acknowledges that it is important to instil a feeling of security among people from different religious and social background. But in the ‘Policy Intervention’ section of the same it has practically no suggestion to make! It says,

Policy interventions

a)      Initiate affirmative and positive action to ensure that our cherished national values are regularly fostered in all young people, especially among members of the large youth volunteer force working under the aegis of leading youth development agencies of the country.

b)      Take appropriate initiatives to prepare young people as crusaders of these values that are crucial not only for national harmony but also for instilling national identity. While macro-level action can set out broad policies and directions, it needs to be recognised that local level action can bring in better and more enduring results. Youth clubs and large volunteer force available with the youth development agencies can play a pivotal role in this endeavour.

With due respect to the makers of the policy, I want to ask one word question for both ‘a’ and ‘b’ of Policy Intervention: “How?”

Can using words like ‘initiate’ and ‘appropriate initiatives’ address serious issues of social inclusion, which also includes issues like ghettoization of different communities? How can one bring a young person from a ghetto area to the mainstream? It suggests ‘Youth Clubs’ can play a pivotal role. Shall I not consider this solution extremely ‘broad’ in its approach?

A proper solution demands proper research, which this policy lacks. For the same point it should have a detailed plan for different ministries (Ministry of Minority Affairs, Ministry of Tribal Affairs et cetera) to ‘initiate’ proper plans for the youth to join the mainstream. We cannot expect such a huge task to happen in vacuum, without the support of other ministries.

Another observation which one makes is for the focus areas it acknowledges. The NYP 2012 acknowledges, primarily, skill development and sports as its focus area. Not that I do not support sports, but I do not see any other more prominent issues given proper focus in the policy, although it talks about all the key issues concerning the youth of the country. But it is only to cover them for the heck of covering them as must be the customs of policy formations.

The policy, it seems, was made in haste. As a young citizen of the country I not only demand but deserve a better policy. I do not need 27 pages of theory alien to me. I need plans for my brethren across the country. I need a proper plan for Raju whom I met only once at my native village. I need a proper policy for Chotu and Aarif whom I have met numerous times. It’s high time we have issue driven policies in the country.

An, by the way, does any one of you know why the Youth Affairs minister has to be the Sports minister as well? Let me know if you have an answer.

Post By: Nihal Parashar

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Deconstructing the focus of the National Youth Policy

National  Youth Policy of India is supposed to provide guidelines to different ministries and official bodies to initiate a process of inclusion of youth of the country from varied backgrounds to mainstream. Larger question which lies in front of us is if it has been able to do so? But before analysing its implementation we must also analyse the focus of the Policy.

The policy starts with a quote from Swami Vivekanand. The historic quote from one of Swami’s many lectures goes like this,

“Young men, my hope is in you. Will you respond to the call of your nation? Each one of you has a glorious future if you dare believe me. Have a tremendous faith in yourselves, like the faith I had when I was a child, and which I am working out now. Have that faith, each one of you, in yourself—that eternal power is lodged in every soul—and you will revive the whole of the country.”

This quote addresses the ‘men’ of the country, but shouldn’t it also be addressing  the needs of women and the third gender of the country. Swami Vivekanand has his hope in the young men whom he rhetorically asks to respond to the ‘call of nation’. As a matter of fact, he spoke decades back in a different context. Quoting him here is certainly out of context. One cannot start a policy on youth with reference to men alone.

When we look at the undercurrents of the policy, we find the focus area of the policy is concentrated around skill development and sports. It talks about other focus areas too, but is unable to suggest proper policy intervention. For instance in section 7, titled Thrust Areas, it talks about various issues of grave concern. Section 7.9 talks about the evil practices in the society. It goes like this,

7.9 Social justice and action against unhealthy social practices

a) There exist certain unhealthy social practices like dowry child marriage, female infanticide and honour killings and decisions by Khap Panchayats which need to be addressed.

Policy intervention

a)      The task of rooting out long-embedded unhealthy social practices from the community requires concerted local action through a sustained programme of education of the community people and dialogue with leaders and elders. The role of voluntary organisations working in the community and officials of various related departments is also crucial and should be adhered to.

This section talks about serious issues which require proper planning and strong will to ensure implementation. But the policy sums up the intervention in just two sentences. The mention of voluntary organisations working in the community is too broad to give a crucial role to tackle the problem. These are deep-rooted problems that require an analysis to suggest a proper implementation policy for the same. It could have suggested a plan of creating its own body for the purpose or by creating a system which involves other ministries as well. This will certainly require hard work on part of Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, but complex problems require solutions that are practical.

India’s youth face numerous problems and education is a major concern. The age bracket of 16 to 30 years comprises of almost all the matriculation students, intermediate students, graduation and higher studies students. The policy does not discuss about the students in a detailed manner. There is a mention about the education scenario in the country, but with no proper planning. Given the dropout rates in school and colleges across the country it was important to have a detailed plan to seek assistance of relevant ministry to minimise the dropout rate of young students. For this proper budgeting is required. Infrastructure of academic institutions is of a major concern as well. NYP needs to have a detailed plan for the same as well.

It is surprising that the policy never discusses budgetary allocation for various plans it mentions. By reading the youth policy one wonders how we can achieve such a humongous task with no discussion of monetary transaction! It needs to give guidelines for budgetary allocation for not only for plans related to the education but also for various youth club it mentions which are required to bring together the youth from diverse background to mainstream. The youth club it mentions has no resources and it is difficult to even imagine how they can take care of tasks related to the youth across the country.

Towards the conclusion of the policy, you see a few mathematical equations being solved only to realise that it is Youth Development Index, YDI, which is based on the model of Human Development Index, HDI, with a few new components in order to cater to the needs of the youth. There is no way one can comment on the YDI as there is still time for it to prove its consequences. It aims at providing data to central government, different state governments and civil societies ‘to ascertain the status of youth vis-à-vis the systemic dimensions which influence their growth and empowerment’. The statistical equations are, it seems, too broad and generic in nature to give a clear picture of the development of youth pan India.

All this help us to analyse that the focus of NYP 2012 is quite defocused and there is an urgent need to rectify it. It becomes important to understand that there is a need of inclusion of civil bodies in the policy making process. By civil bodies I mean people who have worked hard with the youth of the country in different sectors. There can be sub-policies for the three age brackets NYP 2012 suggests. Accordingly different civil bodies need to work with respective age brackets. For instance, the age bracket of 16 to 21 years requires experts from secondary and higher secondary education background. Similarly the age brackets of 21 to 25 years and 26 to 30 years will require experts from University education, skill development sector and other relevant bodies who have been associated with the concerned youth for a long time.

A better system and society for youth of the nation will ensure a better future of the country. It is an urgent need for intervention by people of the country so that we have practical/implementable policies with better implementation strategies.

Post By: Nihal Parashar

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