Youths in India have rarely received its share of attention, nor have they been thought as core component of policy making and planning. The debate on the youth issues are many a time misplaced and lacks sincerity in approach and understanding. Such trends are getting reinforced in what we call an era of globalisation for the youths are portrayed as a section of society ready to break away with established norms and past tradition with eagerness to mingle with the ill-effects of impending ?cultural onslaught?. Youths have been stereotyped into different images, which are sometime bold, sometime blunt, sometime rebellious and assertive but we lack a portrayal of youth wherein its sensitive, constructive, responsible aspects find expression. It cannot be denied that there is a mentality unwilling to repose faith in the capabilities of youth. Such a backward looking mentality is primarily responsible for depriving the younger generations from its rightful role in the society.
It is often repeated time and again that future of any nation depends on the way its young generation thinks and acts. The youth of today'sIndia has a golden opportunity to shape the future of this great ancient civilization for the time has come when a vibrant and confident section of young people have emerged even providing leadership at global levels. This is more true given the fact that demographically India has become a young country today, as more than 70 per cent of our population is now under the age of 35, out of this 33.8 per cent come under 15-34 age category. The number of adolescents alone (10-19) has crossed 230 million. Thus, now every second Indian is a young Indian. It is estimated that in 2020, the average Indian will be only 29 years old, compared with the average age of 37 years in China and the US, 45 in Europe and 48 in Japan. The demographic process, this implies, would create a large and growing youth force, which is expected to deliver spin-offs in terms of growth and prosperity through a number of routes.
India needs to develop an understanding regarding the demographic advantage it has over other countries in the coming decades. But as we know today that the population alone would not result in realising the aspirations of a developed and strong nation but this assumes that the growing workforce of youth has to be trained to acquire the skills needed by the newer and technologically more dynamic industries. In case, we fail to enhance the human resource in line with the growing demographic demands, the demographic advantage would not only be lost but also result in a factor unleashing retrogressive trends leading to underdevelopment, anarchy and chaos. Therefore, we see that history has offered us opportunity in the shape of demographic dividend but this opportunity is associated with challenges. If we were able to train our youth work force, we would be dominating the world, if we fail, we may trail to the last.
The nation appears least prepared to reap the dividends in the coming decades. In the present scenario, the society has shown least interest in addressing the problems of the youth, much less to talk about employing this workforce so as to surge ahead at a faster pace. We even find a slight decline in the rate of educated employment for men between 2000 and 2005 but were still around 6 per cent for those with secondary school degrees and 7 per cent for graduates. Unemployment among educated women was much higher and also got worse, reaching rates of 34 per cent for rural female graduates, and 20 per cent for urban women with high school and above. The recent hype created with regard to jobs in BPO, KPO and other private sectors remain eyewash as they cater to a specific group, which appears a miniscule minority. A large section of young people remain underpaid, underemployed lacking job satisfaction and job security, and feeling completely dislocated in the system. It is not a question of unemployment alone but a system wherein dignity of an individual is assured and his sense of having contributed to the society at large is enhanced.
It may be said that in the recent years, the focus has shifted away from the youth and we as a nation are lacking a vision wherein young generations have a role to play in the nation building process. The liberalisation-globalisation era has further left the youths at the mercy of the market forces where they are supposed to fend for themselves. Such an approach may create unavoidable crisis in the future, as the issues related to youths are vital for the nation given the demographic trends. At the same time, changing scenario is also altering the nature of challenges; therefore a reassessment of the current scenario with future prospects should be done along with an ?Action Plan? for future. In 2003, the then central government had framed a ?National Youth policy?, an initiative taken after 1988 when the first youth policy was framed but how far these policies were able to produce an impact is still debatable. A new policy needs to be debated democratically with the participation of youths minimizing the bureaucratic tangles and by shelving the mindset which views the younger generations with suspicion. There is a need to consider youths as a core component in policy making at multiple levels and to initiate a democratic process so as to incorporate youths into nation building process with a long-term perspective.
(The writer is a research scholar in JNU.)