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Stepping forward to build our youth for the future

I met him at an informal gathering a couple of days ago after a long time. He is one of the most respectable, popular and active political leader of our state. The discussion started from how the terrible illness locked everybody in their countries, cities, and homes, how people were closely following the statistics and heard the stories of overwhelmed hospitals and how India performed in handling the crisis. We also spoke about some of the key challenges India is facing and if they have gotten better or worse in the last few years. I think on certain matters like our nation’s progress and direction, we had a disagreement. And that is when he said, ‘while I appreciate what you are saying, most of the people complain and find faults, instead be responsible and help find solutions and gear up to serve your country. We believe in our betterment or of our families and the same values have been passed on from one generation to another. Let us encourage the young population to have a sense of community and help build the nation.’ While his statement was simple, there was depth in every word he said. It made sense to think if we are doing enough to groom youngsters to become engaged citizens and voters. We all know it was on August 15, 1947, India won her Independence and it’s a national holiday. It is celebrated by organizing events at schools, colleges, embassies, government & private offices, and residential areas. I do remember missing my classes sometimes, but I never missed Independence Day celebration at school. The white uniform, the tri-color badge, the march-past, the decorated classrooms, that box of sweets, the hard-hitting lyrics of ‘Ae mere watanke logo’ , the flag hoisting ceremony and how I took pride when the flag used to fly in all its glory. If I go further back, our family sat together in front of the tele screen to watch the flag-hoisting ceremony at the Red Fort, drills, cultural events which showed unity in diversity, the parade, and the singing of Indian National Anthem, all live on Doordarshan. As a child, I enjoyed it, and this helped me develop an active interest in the parade and learn love, respect and loyalty towards my country. Apart from this, as a young student I remember our school trips to historical places, national museums, Gandhi Smriti and Rajghat. That’s how many of us learnt the history of our country or who wrote the constitution or vande-mataram or our national anthem, how national heroes like Gandhi and Sardar Patel led the freedom movement. In fact, many of us joined NCC too (The National Cadet Corps) and it developed a sense of duty, commitment, dedication, discipline, and moral values. I can say with great pride, all of this did instil the feeling of patriotism in many children of my age, and this made us more responsible citizens of today. Unfortunately, a lot of things have changed now. Thanks, to the social media. While it has provided us the opportunity to be the most socialized animal in the world, it has also alienated us from the rest of the society, and we have forgotten about the real world that we are living in. The national holidays are just like any other holiday, a dry day, and many a times an opportunity to take a long weekend off or going to the mall, having and nice lunch and generally chilling. Also, the individuals and brands share their patriotic sentiment through video campaigns on various social media platforms. The young generations know it’s a day when you have a huge discount on shopping and other offerings but many of them have forgotten we are a conglomeration of several diverse communities, languages, religions, and customs which are mutually dependent to grow. We all know our soldiers in uniform are patriots, but we also get several opportunities daily to live this patriotism. We can also show ‘love for our nation by encouraging the younger generation to start looking and acting on opportunities for serving the nation. The first step is teaching children their rights and responsibilities that come with democracy. At their age, they will not have the intellectual capacity to comprehend our complex political framework, however they’re extremely mindful of issues of equality and fairness. Discuss with them the job of our Prime Minister: to lead our nation and discuss the thought that we vote for leaders who we think will do a good job for our country or state. Explain them the significance of voting and take them to the voting booth or political rallies. Let them see you participating in local issues such as improving schools, volunteering for conservation of parks, ponds and natural resources, or taking care of destitute and donating money during natural calamity that has struck our fellow citizens. Take them to meet a war victim, a terror attack or natural disaster. While all of this may not directly relate to politics, children do learn what is of value from what you invest your energy in. This also prepares them to actively contribute to the political process as adults. Coming to colleges and universities, the students union is gaining popularity for honing leadership skills, understanding the political arena, and preparing students comprehensively for unforeseen and unimagined things that life brings. Several Indian politicians have risen from the cradle of student politics as joining at a young age gave them a boost in this field. If you go back to the origins of student politics, the All-India Student Federation was formed in 1936. It played a critical role in India’s freedom struggle, and they also found their political identity at this time. Over years, there were more than one thousand affiliated organisations and several thousand members and became a platform for younger generations to express their opinion on diverse social and political issues. Recently going through some statistics, I learnt India has world’s largest youth population. 65% of India’s population is below the age of 35, while only 6% of our political leaders and ministers are below this age. This data is enough to understand that a developing country like India needs to have majority leader’s corresponding to the significantly concentrated population age group. Indeed, we need leaders who are young, enthusiastic, energetic, and talented. The numbers make me wonder over the issue that if the young people of our nation are accomplishing achievements in all the spheres of life be it research, education, modernization, creating awareness and so on and are as pioneers and individuals who are really changing the world, for what reason is the young population so low in politics? Lakhs of talented youth leave every year to attain good education and find lucrative jobs in developed countries. This shows the sentiment towards the country has weakened led by factors like unemployment and bribing to get government jobs. This is the motivation behind why the young people of India are not viewing at this nation as their own and are searching for their home in different nations. They want to move away from the political power here. In fact, even the youth who votes in India does not trust his/her chosen candidate. If politicians are invited to schools and colleges to share information with students on their political program and workings of parliament, it will help students expand their thought process beyond communalism. If political parties start considering reservation for youth leaders, design strategies to have young leaders with a non-political background and carrying out drives to have professionals in mainstream politics and ensure diversity amongst youth, the young parliamentarians can help rejuvenate our democracy and give young people a voice in decision making and public policy. Also, if experienced leaders guide young leaders, encourage, and support them to make India a better place, the pace of development will be different with their fresh and innovative ideas. It is high time we utilize our talent to find out solutions for our problems. Even if you are not prepared to join politics, share your thoughts so that more people understand the need of young leaders in the development of our nation.

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