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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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