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Youth Power-A Dividend or a Disaster?

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  • karmayog
    From: Ratna Magotra As the situation keeps to nose dive, may be we need to think what we can do for our Youth so as not to lose the
    Message 1 of 1 , May 4, 2013
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      From: Ratna Magotra <ratnamagotra@...>

      As the situation keeps to nose dive, may be we need to think what we can do for our " Youth" so as not to lose the edge of being a young nation.
      Sharing some stray thoughts with request for critical feedback like always, regards

      ratna magotra

      Youth Power-A Dividend or a Disaster?

      "Every Child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man!" - Tagore

      India indeed is a young nation with 34 per cent of population between 10-24 years of age according to 2011 Census report. Economic advantage of a young nation is tremendous and the country is well positioned to become an economic giant; at least it was until the economic slowdown started to take its toll. A good democratic system needs to absorb the aspirations of this vibrant section.

      The youth today is restless, ready to take to the streets when moved by an honest cause like it happened spontaneously after the gang rape of the young physiotherapist in Delhi in December, 2012 or recently after a child of 5 years was raped brutally, again in Delhi. A similar mobilization was seen earlier with India against Corruption movement led by Anna Hazare in 2011. Corruption had emerged as a major failure of the system and the youth rose to the occasion demanding transparency and good governance.

      It is in this background of such a potential power of youth that the involvement of young in serious and heinous crimes like rape and terrorism is worrying. Many of those arrested for rape, robbery, murder and terrorist activities are young boys in their late teens and early twenties. The minor involved in Delhi gang rape has been reported to be the most brutal among the assaulters. This is a matter for urgent attention as we do not get tired of speaking about the ‘demographic dividend’ of youth in India. Is it the responsibility of the youth alone that they do not veer from the righteous path? Should we pass the entire onus of values upon parents and teachers? Or should this responsibility rest on all of us who are part of ‘civil society’? It is not unusual to hear in varying contexts that individual behavior is a reflection of the society. It is time to give a serious thought to the opportunities we give to our young people.

      The political class and the governments have stopped talking of population policy after the excesses during the emergency in 1975 when there were many instances of forced sterilizations. Politicians in general are happy to have uneducated and ill bred youth to work for them promising them money and liquor but nothing for their future. These lumpen elements cause social unrest as they flaunt their proximity to politicians whenever challenged by the law enforcing agencies. It is common sense that when the size of pie is limited, portions meted out will be correspondingly small and the logic is applicable to housing, jobs and other amenities. As the jobs become scarce, the restlessness is reflected in increasing crime rate.

      Good education has eluded the youth. Several studies done by Pratham and others have shown the inability of 5th standard students to read or write. The teachers are unmotivated and ill-trained to mould the future of their students. Private coaching has become a norm even in small towns. Education has suffered further with entire focus on marks and admission in professional courses. The credibility of government run schools is so low that even the poorest send their children to private English medium schools, compromising on healthy food in order to pay the high fees. The result is undernourished, undereducated young people who have no skills and are unemployable.

      The next level of education in professional colleges is no less disastrous. Many engineering and medical colleges are the enterprise of greedy politicians whose only interest is high tuition fees and selling seats under management quota for vulgar amounts of few Crores for post graduate admissions. Students who thus qualify are not trained for ethical and professional competency but for early recovery of their 'investment'.

      The social environment is also getting polluted. Cinema and television have been considered a big influence on youth through their content including music. Other entertainment content including pornography is also easily available even to children. Abuse and cuss words are being promoted as a new art form.

      It is perhaps in this background that Avalok Langer of Tehelka says, “India’s key to future success — its youth — is a ticking time bomb.” His essay is a warning against the refrain and comfort of India’s so-called ‘youth dividend'. A demographic dividend should not become a demographic disaster - it is a heavy responsibility. It is for society to think where and how it can intervene to provide a milieu for the youth to realize their full potential and complete human development. There is no doubt that population policy needs to be revisited with vigor to ensure that every child is ensured quality upbringing, adequate nourishment, education and a vocation in order to become a proud citizen of the country. As Langer adds, “the scary thing is, unlike physical capital or infrastructure, you cannot throw money at human capital. Human capital, skills and education levels are built generationally and if you have a bad system, you are going to lose a generation.” Education is the key for achieving this objective. Human Resource Development ministry should become the most powerful wing of all governments at centre and state levels.

      dr. ratna magotra 27 April 2013
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