TRENDWATCH-III Whither Youth? (JANUARY 21, 2013)


In this third article of the series, Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam considers the state of youth in India.

Youth is the prime human resource on which any country thrives. It is mostly the youth who earn the money that goes to support pensioners. It is they who provide the manpower that drives an economy and runs the system. It is they who go to war to defend their countries. That is why they are an indicator of a society’s health and vitality.

There are countries which do not have enough youth to drive the system. Russia, France and Japan are youth-deficit countries where there are fewer young persons today to sustain the burden of the growing number of old people on pension. In the next couple of decades, even China will have to import young workers from other countries. It is the same situation that Western Europe faced at the end of World War II. China has reached this situation due to the one-child policy it enforced in the 70s and 80s. Once the parents die there is only one person left, unlike a two-child norm where the number is maintained.

India, on the other hand, is in a demographic advantage. But the youth need more systematic education and training accessible to everyone. This is far from the reality today. As one set of youth are being equipped with the best training and education to face the world, another set are either uneducated and untrained, or poorly educated and poorly trained.

It is mostly the better educated and better trained middle-class urban youth whom we see in large anti-corruption or anti-rape demonstrations, rather than the less advantaged youth. Many Muslim youth, either unemployed or self-employed, come under the latter category.

Naturally, the youth are more idealistic, pure and less corrupted than their elders. That is why one see more of them in demonstrations demanding better governance and end of corruption. Quite often these people have been compared to the crowd at Tehrir Square in Cairo demanding an end to Mubarak’s rule. However, as often happens, these people are often a rabble rather than an organised group. Had it not been so they would not have been misled by people like Baba Ramdev.

Even during Anna Hazare’s show at Ramlila ground, quite a few of them were seen getting drunk and behaving rowdily. During the anti-rape demonstrations, one young fellow came surreptitiously behind a female reporter and groped her. Every time she looked back in annoyance, he melted away in the crowd. He came back thrice to do it and was chased away only after a confrontation.

This is another picture of the same youth, albeit a miniscule group. But rapists and murderers too are not in large numbers even though they can destroy the peace of a society. We cannot say for sure that these moral lepers are unemployed or poor. At least, they do not look unemployed or poor.

That leaves us with the question of some kind of moral education and training right from home to kintergarden, primary, secondary, high school, college and university. Side by side with liberal education, technical training, or professional education, training in good conduct and proper social etiquette and manners have to be taught to our youth.

For quite a while the IOS has been trying to grapple with these issues to come up with practical solutions and a blueprint for proper moral education as well as training in good, pleasant manners to be imparted to our youth. We hope to have a definitive report in months ahead.

It is heartening to note that at the Congress Party thinkfest at Jaipur Mrs. Sonia Gandhi has emphasised this point.


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