By Varun Gandhi
Michelangelo depicts God as an old man with flowing beard in the Sistine chapel. But the debate continues whether God is old, or is He in a state of perpetual youth? The Vedic scriptures espouse that divinity never ages, remaining ever youthful, and energetic. For divinity is ?ajanma? (unborn) and ?achyut? (never decaying), and therefore the depiction of divinity is always that of youth. One never sees Shri Ram or Shri Krishna with white hair, even though they stayed on this planet for an extended period of time. The energy of the youth becomes the instrument for change. If a sea of change hovers on the horizon, it will undoubtedly be ushered in by the youth. But the direction the change adopts will depend on the policies we make, and the grooming we impart to our youth today.
Sadly, governance has failed in its delivery potency primarily due to the lack of youth involvement and absence of youth leadership where it matters. India, it seems, has overlooked history'stestimony that the youth are the punctuation that define every change. The youth are an arrow into the future. By not drafting a serious youth policy and by not shaping the national youth character, are we not blunting our own arrows, and in turn our own futures?
India needs modernisation without westernisation! Such a modernisation can only be ushered in by her youth groomed in her ancient philosophy. India is an ancient land, but it is also a country of the young. Seventy per cent of India is under the age of 35 years. It is this 70 per cent of India that is the driving force of a changing India. But like any force, this force too needs to be regulated. The regulators in this case undoubtedly must be the moral and spiritual guiding principles?the samskar.
Why is our educational system urban-centric and western-specific? It teaches us Occidental history, but does not impart vocational education that would help the youth find employment, or give the rural poor a better stake in their lives.
The three most important changes required in our youth policy are to add value-orientation based on our ancient shastras and other religious scriptures in our curriculum and make it samskar-centric, to include appropriate vocational components in education and make in nirdhan-centric, and to promote ?service before self? opportunities and make it sewa-centric.
With the decline of the joint-family system, the institution having the greatest influence on the youth is the educational institution. It can influence the thoughts of an entire generation, inculcate the correct samskar, and instil a desire for service. The educational institution is the stem from which a future India shall sprout. Alas! due to an erred interpretation of secularism, our educational system today stands totally devoid of India'straditional values. Is it not catastrophic that in the land of the Vedas, the study of the Upanishads and that of the Bhagwad Gita has been virtually banned in our schools? What sort of secularism is this, in which we take pleasure in depriving millions of our youth of their right to be acquainted with their own cultural heritage? We have, in effect, punctured our own tires at the advent of a race. This must change.
The inertia of our thought has made our system archaic. Why is our educational system urban-centric and western-specific? It teaches us Occidental history, but does not impart vocational education that would help the youth find employment, or give the rural poor a better stake in their lives. Agriculture employs 70 per cent of our workforce, but has anybody thought of how the educational system can help the poor farmer? When we say that India is a krishi pradaan desh, we must question, ?Gramin yuvak krishi ko ek yantra bana ke apni zindagi ka sudhaar kyon nahi kar paa raha?? The Indian farmer'sentire life is dependent on rain. All his life he slaves, finding himself dependent on credit. The government gives Kisan Credit Cards and loans, but what can the farmer do? He does not know how to optimally use these funds. In India the only reason, why we started the mid-day meal scheme was to bring more rural children to schools. But can the educational system not impart better vocational training and actually benefit them? How come we don'thave farming techniques as a subject in India? Can farmers? children not be taught better cultivating techniques? The urban youth are taught about the need for drip irrigation, agricultural innovations, water conservation, and water harvesting techniques, but nobody is teaching these to the rural youth. The rural youth must be scientifically groomed into the reasons for India'sagriculture backwardness, only then would he be more open towards cooperative farming and land consolidation. Similarly, rural schools should teach about modern farming tools, benefits of pesticides, fertilizers, and high-yield seeds. Handicraft, blacksmith, and pottery skills can also be imparted as part of rural education.
The urban youth is disconnected from the Indian reality. This disconnection can be reduced through a programme that postulates a feeling of service before self. Can the urban educational system not develop the National Social Service League into a more potent institution that coordinates youth efforts in villages, and reduce this disconnect? Mahatma Gandhi'sconcept of shram daan is the need of the hour to make the urban youth more aware of the needs of rural India. One year after school but before college can be a time, wherein the urban youth spend time in a village and help with its infrastructural development by learning masonry skills, clean up village roads, plant more trees, build wells and toilets, repair primary health units, spread awareness about HIV prevention, personal hygiene, about the need to boil drinking water, and help build water harvesting solutions. The urban youth can also help by collecting data for so many social indices. They can spread awareness about the various government schemes that can benefit the rural youth. A year'sstay in a village will do far more to reduce the urban-rural disconnect than a thousand books on the subject. Young RSS pracharaks have given up the homely comforts and are doing exactly this in the villages and working for that ?antim vyakti? of our society. Why can'tthe rest of young India also do the same at least for one year?
India is an ancient land, but it is also a country of the young. Seventy per cent of India is under the age of 35 years. It is this 70 per cent of India that is the driving force of a changing India. But like any force, this force too needs to be regulated.
The IIMs and the IITs are leading international educational institutions. But only a handful of their vast alumni contribute towards betterment of rural India. Therefore, only those youth who have spent a year in villages must be permitted to appear for the IIM and IIT entrance exams. Similarly, aspirants to careers in the Administrative services must compulsorily have spent one year in a village. Architecture students must be encouraged to use their skills in the villages where they spend their one year, and educate people about earthquake-resistant houses built from local materials. Medical students can do their internship in villages. Female students can work at district-level hospitals, but male students must serve in primary health centres in remote areas.
In the urban scenario, various mitra-mandals (youth clubs) can be formed in every area that run job placement centres for the youth, impart computer education, motor driving and motor mechanic skills, secretarial training, typing, BPO training and other skills to the urban poor. The urban poor can also be taught masonry and carpentry skills and be sent overseas to countries where there is a need for them. India'sgreatest export no doubt can be qualified labour. This will not only improve the lives of millions, increase their purchasing power, and augment their economic standing in society, but also increase India'sGDP. Instead of going to villages, the urban poor can serve their one year in the military, and learn discipline. This would increase their patriotism, build their character, instil a service attitude and help augment India'smilitary might.
Policy-makers, thinkers and people in governance must therefore question, what is the Zeitgeist (the spirit of our times)? What is the mood of the people today? What do young people want? It is important that they understand and cater to these questions. A sloka from the Katha Upanishad states, ?Uttishtha jaarat praapya varaan nibodhata, kshu-rasya dhaaraa nishitaa duratyayaa, durgam pathas tat kavayo vadanti.? It asks us to arise, awaken and move onwards across the sharp and difficult razor-edged path laid out by the great sages of the past. For this to happen, motivation is needed. To power the motivation, energy is required. To sustain the energy, idealism is necessary. It is the youth that possess this energetic idealism. The Zeitgeist, therefore, becomes a call for youth leadership.