The world over today, there is talk of the ?demographic dividend? that India will receive over the next forty years. Now what does that exactly mean? For decades since Independence in 1947 we had been told that India'sdemography was her main liability, that India'spopulation was growing too fast and what India needed most was to control its population, even if by coercive methods.
The Congress Party in power propagated this thesis because they could shift the blame for non-performance in the economy onto the people. But in fact, the economic disasters that we had, such as food shortage (1965-67), foreign exchange crisis (1957-58 and 1990-91) and the low growth rate in GDP (1952-90), were all because we had adopted the Soviet model of development thanks to the Nehru family'smental bondage to the USSR. But the Nehrus blamed it instead on the people for having too many children and termed the low growth rate of GDP as the ?Hindu rate?, as if the Hindus could do no better and not because Nehru'simposition of the alien ideology of socialism on India.
Such was the atmosphere created since Independence by the Nehrus that when noted demographer Dr. Ashish Bose of the University of Delhi published in 1972 my research as a chapter in his book titled India'sPopulation, the results of which research had contradicted the view that population growth is necessarily a liability, all the servile academics in universities were lined up to denounce me as a ?dangerous demagogue? for arguing that a well educated, properly motivated and fast growing young population, i.e., the youth of India, would be an asset to the country'sdevelopment and not a liability.
I had argued then that modern science and through the scientific innovations of these youngsters can overcome the limitations of land, natural resources and production. I had then also called coercive family planning as ?an international conspiracy of white nations?. But the negative view of population prevailed till the nasbandi fiasco of the Emergency in 1975-77 forced Indian politicians to become less vocal about the need for coercive family planning. But the prejudice about population growth in India continued into the beginning of the 21st century.
During this same period, China had earned international praise for coercively controlling population by it'sshort-sighted one child per family scheme. Indian Left academics, like programmed parrots, kept exhorting us to follow the China example. Thank our good fortune that our democracy protected us from the China disaster. Even China accepts today that the one-child programme was wrong.
The world view has now completely changed with the shift in focus in the theory of economic development. Now development is no more thought of as capital-driven, but as knowledge-driven. For application of knowledge, we need innovations, which means more original research, and hence we need more fresh young minds out of universities?the cream of the youth.
India today leads in the supply of youth, i.e., persons in the age group of 15 to 35 years, and this lead will last for another forty years. We should not squander this ?natural resource?. We must therefore by proper policy for the young, realise and harvest the demographic potential. China is the second largest world leader in young population today. But the youth population in that country will start shrinking from 2015, i.e., less than a decade from now because of lagged effect of the one-child policy. Japanese and European total populations are fast aging, and will start declining in absolute numbers from next year. The US will however hold a steady trend thanks to a liberal policy of immigration, especially from Mexico and Phillipines. But even then the US will have a demographic shortage in skilled personnel. All developed countries will experience a demographic deficit. India will not. Our past liability, by a fortuitous turn of fate, has now become our potential asset.
Thus, India has now become, by unintended consequences, gifted with a young population. If we educate this youth to develop cognitive intelligence to become original thinkers, imbibe emotional intelligence to have team spirit and rational risk?taking attitude, inculcate moral intelligence to blend personal ambition with national goals, and cultivate social intelligence to defend civic rights of the weak, gender equality and the courage to fight injustice, then we can develop a superior species of human being, an Indian youth who can be relied on to contribute to make India a global power within two decades.
The nation must therefore structure a national policy for the youth of India so that in every young Indian the four dimensional concept of intelligence, viz., cognitive, emotional, moral and social, manifests in his character. Only then our demographic dividend will not be wasted. These four dimensions of intelligence constitute the ability of a person to live a productive life and for national good. Hence, a policy for India'syouth has to be structured within the implied parameters of these four dimensions.
What are the parameters of such a national youth policy? These are (1) ability empowerment?that is the development of the four types of intelligence stated above; (2) a collective mindset about the legacy and future of the nation, which means knowing the correct de-falsified history of India and learning Sanskrit; (3) commitment to a social contract of rights and obligations such as a fundamental right to quality primary and secondary education, right to work, an obligation to compete for positions on merit, practice gender equality and placing national interest above selfish interests.
A national youth policy is therefore a framework for the comprehensive growth of the nation'syoung population between 15 and 35 years of age and for enabling this youth to be positioned in life for personal advancement as well as for contributing to national greatness.
The government of India has the prime responsibility to formulate within these three parameters such a policy for youth. Twice, first in 1988 and again in 2003, a policy for youth was announced by the government. Let us look at these two formulations to see if indeed the announced policy is within the above three parameters and meets the requirements of India'syouth of the 21st century, necessary for the nation to maximise the demographic dividend due to India.
The 1988 formulation was seriously flawed and inadequate because it emphasised the listing of needs of the youth and what the government can provide for them. It blandly lists youth needs as education, employment, sports and participation in decision-making. The policy does not visualise the youth as a raw material for human capital development, but as some disgruntled alienated social group that has to be co-opted and given some goodies. Hence, it made no impact on the youth of India because there was no inspiration in these goals.
The National Youth Policy 2003 was better formulated, but again the focus was to design ?an appropriate policy framework to be in place to harness the energies of the youth?? That is, the object of the policy was not for positioning the youth in society within the three parameters, but as a reservoir of energy to be harnessed, much as we would bullocks and horses?fit and able for traction. The objectives stated in the 2003 policy document are extensive, but do not constitute a coherent agenda. For example, it talks of the need to ?instill in the youth an adherence to secular principles.? Now what does that mean? Does the Muslim silence on the arrest, on a bogus case, of the Kanchi Shankaracharya and the Hindus howl against a cartoon published in far away Denmark disparaging Prophet Mohammed, define secularism? That is, is secularism a one way obligation for Hindus? Is it secularism for the nation to have uniform criminal code (Indian Penal Code) but not uniform civil code? If the Shariat is violated by the latter why not by the former? Why this double standard? Thus the 2003 policy also floundered because there was no cohesive agenda for the youth.
Thus, we lack today a properly structured policy for India'syouth. There is however an urgent need for designing such a policy because of the potential that we have to reap the demographic dividend from our large national pool of youth.
I would define an appropriate national youth policy as ?an architecture? that enables the youth to bloom to the maximum feasible human capacity by the time of attaining full adult maturity. In other words, the architecture consists of objectives of youth development, priorities in the attainment of the objectives, a strategy based on a coherent agenda to achieve those objectives in the order of priority determined and mobilisation of financial and other resources to implement that strategy. The overall goal of a national youth policy has to be to make the nation a secure civilisation. All dimensions of development have therefore to be synergised to that goal.
What are the objectives then that the youth should work toward? These objectives cannot be purely materialistic because we know from our past history that though India was the world'smost economically developed country, our nation was subject to brutal assault and loot by a handful of foreigners and for a 1000 years we could not rule from Delhi. Materialistic progress alone does not guarantee national security of a nation. What is essential is the character and integrity of its citizens. Hence, besides the objective of acquiring knowledge and getting employment that require cognitive intelligence, the youth must be motivated in other dimensions of intelligence that of emotional, moral and social. These concepts have been developed in the eighteen chapters of Bhagavat Gita that has been interpreted in modern context by Sri Chandrashekharendra Saraswati of Kanchi Mutt, Swami Chinmayananda and Swami Dayananda Saraswati of Arsha Vidyalaya. In the United States, as the Business Week magazine has recently reported, these concepts have become highly popular in the corporate world and have been incorporated in the best-selling books written by Daniel Goleman, Deepak Chopra, and Anthony Robbins among others.
Thus, cognitive intelligence is necessary for technical competence and intellectual articulation; emotional intelligence for the ability to perceive, apprise and express emotion adaptively to create empathy in others, and to regulate emotions in ways that assist thought; moral intelligence is the mental capacity to determine how universal human principles should be applied to our personal values, goals and actions; and social intelligence is knowing how to use our neurological Wi-Fi to motivate others since our thoughts, emotions and body language impact on the responses of others who interact with us, just as laughter, anger, rebuke, praise, optimism, pessimism, honesty, crookedness, etc., each affects the behaviour of others bilaterally and multilaterally.
The topic is vast and I ought to write a book to do justice to the subject. But in brief, the national youth policy is nothing but measures by which we can create a modern mindset in the youth of India, not only to motivate the youth to acquire technical competence, but to develop emotional, moral and social values that will make that person a self-reliant individual of high character, patriotic and possessing a social conscience. Such an army of evolved youth will be the asset of the nation and then collectively the demographic dividend can be reaped by us for the glory of Bharat Mata. Hence, a well structured national youth policy is is vital for making India global power two decades hence.