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72% of the youth are apathetic to politics

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  • Isha Khan
    *Survey on the youth of today and their thoughts* *72% of the youth are apathetic to politics* PROBE News Magazine recently ran a survey on what the younger
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 26, 2010
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      Survey on the youth of today and their thoughts

      72% of the youth are apathetic to politics

      PROBE News Magazine recently ran a survey on what the younger generation is thinking about, particularly where politics is concerned. A random survey was run on 100 young persons comprising students of public and private universities as well as young professionals. The respondents were of the 15 to 30-year-old age group, 66 being male and 34 female. Among them, 57 were university students, 31 school and college students and 12 young professionals. Of the university students, eleven were of Dhaka University, 17 of BUET and 29 of various private universities.

      The first question was, which topic featured the most in their discussions or adda? 25% of the respondents said studies, 30% said Internet, 20% said computers, 5% said mobiles phones, 2% said fashion, 2% said relationships, 1% said films and 10% said careers.

      About politics, 45 of the respondents say they do discuss politics but this does not take up more than 5% of their conversation. The other 55 say they do not discuss politics at all. Among those who discuss politics, 60% of their political discussion is on national politics, 30% on student politics and 10% on international politics.

      Interestingly, almost all of the respondents said they did not worry their heads over the escalating price of essentials.

      The second question asked them to evaluate the present state of politics in the country. In reply, 28 said it was positive and 72 said it was negative.

      As to their knowledge pertaining to the history of Bangladesh, 25 said they had a good concept of history, four said they didn’t have a good concept of history and 71 said they had an average idea of history. A total of 63 of the respondents could correctly give the date of birth of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as March 17, 1920; then 25 said 17 March 1921; six said 27 March 1920; and six said they did not know. As for the date of Ziaur Rahman’s death, 48 correctly said 30 May 1981; three said 31 May 1982; 10 said 31 May 1982; and three said they did not know.

      How many times has Sheikh Hasina been Prime Minister, including this time? 72 correctly said twice, 23 said thrice, five said four times. How many times has Khaleda Zia been Prime Minister? 62 correctly answered thrice, 36 answered twice and two answered once.

      Asked whether the national flag of Bangladesh had changed since the independence of the country, 67 correctly answered yes and 33 answered in the negative.

      They were asked to identify the national leaders among General Moeen U Ahmed, Moulana Bhasani, AK Fazlul Huq, Tajuddin Ahmed, Kaiser Hamid and Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy. A total of 82 named Moulana Bhasani, 79 AK Fazlul Huq, 83 Tajuddin, 77 Suhrawardy, five Moeen U Ahmed and four Kaiser Hamid.As to where they wanted to settle permanently in the future, at home or abroad, 67 said they wanted to settle in Bangladesh and 33 said abroad.

      Apathy to Politics

      Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders, but prevailing circumstances can present a rather bleak picture in this regard. The younger generation, that is those under 30 years of age, display a decided apathy towards politics. There is a growing and distinct disinterest in politics among the young. Politics hardly ever features in their daily discussions and adda. In general their conversations veer towards studies, the Internet, computers, mobiles, facebook, relationships, the opposite sex and so on.

      “We talk about higher studies, about going abroad and things like that,” says Lamiya Jabbar, a law student of a private institution in Dhaka, “We are not very interested in politics.”

      Why the disinterest in politics? To find this out, PROBE recently ran a survey among young persons, both students and professionals. With exceptions, there was a general negative attitude towards politics. Most of the respondents expressed their frustration and disillusionment with politics and politicians. In fact, 72% of the young people who came under the survey, spoke negatively regarding politics.

      These representatives of the younger generation expressed deep love for the country. However, even those among the meritorious students, had a sketchy knowledge of Bangladesh’s history.

      Very few could give exact dates of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s birth or Ziaur Rahman’s death. Not many could say how many times Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia had each been Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Some said Khaleda Zia had been Prime Minister only once, some said Sheikh Hasina had been Prime Minister four times! They were hazy about who the national leaders were. Some seemed to be hearing the names of Moulana Bhasani, Tajuddin Ahmed, Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Huq and Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy for the first time in their lives. Some even contended that former footballer Kaiser Hamid and former Army Chief Moeen U Ahmed were among the national leaders.

      Again, 33% of the respondents did not know that the present national flag was the second version of the flag and originally it had the map of the country in the centre.

      The younger people who did display interest in politics were of two groups. One was from the public educational institutions like Dhaka University, BUET, Dhaka College, etc. The other group was of the more affluent class who had political inclinations through family ties. But in general, students of the private universities and young professionals did not have interest in politics.

      Again, as for those who had interest in politics, the reasons were varied. Among those in the public universities and colleges, the political involvement in many cases was motivated by convenience. Unless one was affiliated to one party or the other, it was hard to get rooms in the halls and other facilities. There was also a matter of power, as student politics is tied up with toll collection, extortion, muscle on the campus and so on. So this involvement in politics is more a nexus of crime and corruption rather than of any ideological base.

      As for the affluent class, these young people are often the offspring of ministers and MPs and have seen the perks of power. They aspire to reach those pinnacles of power, ostensibly to be at the helm of affairs in the country, and also because politics means power. It is also a conduit to business. As they say, “It is not what you know, but who you know that counts.” So they want to make sure that they not only know the right people in the right places, but that they are the right people in the right places.

      “I do aspire to enter politics and have even started visiting my dad’s constituency regularly. I want to do something for the people,” says the son of an MP, opting for anonymity. Similarly, the daughter of an MP, also on anonymity, says, “Unless educated young people like us enter politics, how can we expect anything in the future for Bangladesh? I will certainly join politics and make a change.” Both of these young people, incidentally, are involved in their fathers’ businesses.

      As for the general negative attitude towards politics, there were a few common reasons behind this. The young people felt that politicians simply served their own interests, were corrupt, were unethical and did not look to the welfare of the people. They did not keep their commitments and had not an iota of patriotism.

      A student of Dhaka College Nayeemul Islam says, “Politics is a matter of business now and the main aim of entering politics is to make money.” Dhaka University student Amanullah says, “People who we do not consider to be students even, such terrorists, are the ones involved in politics on campus. We are not going to follow them.” Bangla College student Shoabiur Rahman says, “These kids enter politics and meet their death. Some are flung off the roof, others are thrown into manholes or simply shot dead. So we have no compunction about staying away from politics.”

      Interestingly, while there has been a steady exodus of young people from the country for higher studies and immigration, 63% of these respondents say they want to settle permanently in the homeland. But 33% percent say there is no future here so they want to settle abroad.

      Concerning the apathy of the young people towards politics, Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon tells PROBE, “The problem is that they have no role model to follow. Instead of role models there are criminals, terrorists, extortionists and hoodlums. At the root of this is the corruption and failure of the politicians.”

      Former VP of DUCSU Mahmudur Rahman Manna says, “Politics hasn’t been what it should have been and things have got worse. People have lost interest in politics. The DUCSU elections and student union elections of other universities haven’t been held for a long time and so things have come to a standstill. Fresh leadership is not evolving.”

      Loss of faith

      Economics Professor of Jahangirnagar University Anu Muhammed does not agree that the younger generation is against politics, nor does he think they are moving away from politics due to an uncertain future. He says, “The younger generation does not accept the politics which they see before them. They see no justification in wasting time behind such politics. But that does not mean their spirit has been crushed. They have taken part in movements over the recent years. So it is not a disinterest in politics, it is a loss of faith in the prevalent politics.”

      Then there are those whose entire focus is how to get out of the country and settle abroad. “This is shameful for the nation,” says Anu Muhammed, “It is all right to go abroad, but to be compelled to go abroad out of a feeling of uncertainty back home, that is a shame. This is the failure of the politicians.”

      Some feel it is the responsibility of the politicians to wean the younger generation to politics, but that again is where uncertainty enters. Mahmudur Rahman Manna says, “The political parties and political leaders are totally engrossed with themselves. How will they groom up a younger generation of political leaders?”

      What else?

      So where does the interest of the younger generation lie? They talk over their mobiles, they talk about their mobiles. They discuss the latest innovations in communication, SMS, MMS, facebook, Twitter, online chatting and so on.

      When it comes to international affairs, they mostly discuss the Iraq war and Afghanistan.

      Then there is the matter of studies, higher education and so on.

      “We discuss all sorts of things,” says Lamiya Jabbar, “mostly about our future and then random topics naturally crop up – we were even discussing Free Masons just the other day!”

      Analysing the trends and preoccupations of the youth, questions loom large on the political future of the country. Who will be the future leaders of the country? The demographic in this context has undergone a radical change. In the past it was the ideological meritorious students who came up to political leadership or in the government mechanism. They were the socio-political and cultural representatives of the country. But who will the mantle of politics fall upon now?

      There is the South Asian propensity for dynastic politics and the sons and daughters of prominent political leaders are waiting in the wings. And most of these leaders are businessmen-turned-politicians, not of the old school ideological ilk. Then again there are the machete-wielding wild-eyed hoodlums on campus. They are the present-day political representatives. Is this where our future lies?

      A random survey was run on 100 young persons comprising students of public and private universities as well as young professionals. The respondents were of the 15 to 30-year-old age group, 66 being male and 34 female. Among them, 57 were university students, 31 school and college students and 12 young professionals. Of the university students, eleven were of Dhaka University, 17 of BUET and 29 of various private universities.

      The first question was, which topic featured the most in their discussions or adda? 25% of the respondents said studies, 30% said Internet, 20% said computers, 5% said mobiles phones, 2% said fashion, 2% said relationships, 1% said films and 10% said careers.

      About politics, 45 of the respondents say they do discuss politics but this does not take up more than 5% of their conversation. The other 55 say they do not discuss politics at all. Among those who discuss politics, 60% of their political discussion is on national politics, 30% on student politics and 10% on international politics.

      Interestingly, almost all of the respondents said they did not worry their heads over the escalating price of essentials.

      The second question asked them to evaluate the present state of politics in the country. In reply, 28 said it was positive and 72 said it was negative.

      As to their knowledge pertaining to the history of Bangladesh, 25 said they had a good concept of history, four said they didn’t have a good concept of history and 71 said they had an average idea of history. A total of 63 of the respondents could correctly give the date of birth of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as March 17, 1920; then 25 said 17 March 1921; six said 27 March 1920; and six said they did not know. As for the date of Ziaur Rahman’s death, 48 correctly said 30 May 1981; three said 31 May 1982; 10 said 31 May 1982; and three said they did not know.

      How many times has Sheikh Hasina been Prime Minister, including this time? 72 correctly said twice, 23 said thrice, five said four times. How many times has Khaleda Zia been Prime Minister? 62 correctly answered thrice, 36 answered twice and two answered once.

      Asked whether the national flag of Bangladesh had changed since the independence of the country, 67 correctly answered yes and 33 answered in the negative.

      They were asked to identify the national leaders among General Moeen U Ahmed, Moulana Bhasani, AK Fazlul Huq, Tajuddin Ahmed, Kaiser Hamid and Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy. A total of 82 named Moulana Bhasani, 79 AK Fazlul Huq, 83 Tajuddin, 77 Suhrawardy, five Moeen U Ahmed and four Kaiser Hamid.As to where they wanted to settle permanently in the future, at home or abroad, 67 said they wanted to settle in Bangladesh and 33 said abroad.

      Villains are in leadership rather than heroes - Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, Emeritus Professor, Dhaka University

      The failure of the politicians is the main cause of disinterest in politics among the younger generation. The post-independence politicians could not offer the youth any ideology. They have been too busy amassing wealth for themselves.

      The political leaders have used the youth for their own interests. They have split the younger generation into two, with Awami League on one side and BNP on the other. So whichever party comes to power, their followers dominate on the campuses, in the halls, in business and so on. The present politicians have taught the younger generation how to loot, extort, to make money from admissions and all sorts of crime and corruption. The general students shy away from this. Such politics does not attract them.

      Then there is a global emergence of capitalism which teaches the individual to amass wealth and to secure a future for himself or herself. This has become the ideal for the youth of today. They cannot think outside of this. As a result, there is a lack of unity needed for movement, for political consciousness and social awareness.

      The universities are also responsible for the present state of affairs. Villains are taking leadership in student politics rather than heroes. Why should the younger generation accept this?

       
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