National Youth Policy 2021 is for review. It is indeed appreciable that at a time when the average age of India is 28 years, the Central Government has decided to come with a New Youth Policy for the next 10 years. It is the need of the time, as well as an urgent need to find solutions to many of the issues affecting the young population in the country.
Presently, as per the previous policy documents, 34% i.e. 450 million of the Indian population belong to 15 to 29 years. In comparison with countries like China, Japan and others, a major proportion of the Indian population will be continuing to be young for next 20 years and then is expected to declined thereafter. Hence, a comprehensive policy for youth seems to be very critical.
If we need to make a robust policy, there is a need to review the achievements of earlier polices, which includes – what the government has done, what has been successful and what was not achieved. But the policy is silent of the past interventions and has not captured its successes and failures.
The policy document says that “the world is changing in significant ways and India’s youth are poised to make the most of it”. However, action needs to be catalyzed to address the barriers to youth development. These barriers are not articulated specifically and hence, action plans and road maps are not demonstrated in the policy documents to achieve it.
The youth policy 2021 has envisioned to “unlock the potentials of youth to advance India” is a good attempt. If this is to actualize, there is an imperative need to look into Education, Health and wellbeing; Employment and other opportunities like entrepreneurship, Leadership opportunities of youth in India today. The reality is that in all these indicators India is faring poor.
Global Youth Development index indicates states that, out of 181 countries, India is in 122 position, while the Global Entrepreneurship index indicates that, out of 136 countries, India stands in 78th position. This policy is silent on both these indicators and the policy documents are not robust enough to take India to below 25th position in both the indexes during the next 10 years’ time.
Education for new generation
Youth Policy focusses and takes pride in New Education Policy. However, the new education policy may contribute towards building a productive youth. But it is mentioned that more than 90,000 crores are spent on youth development. However, it has to be noted that 103,000 crores are spent on education in which 63,000 crores for the primary education and 40,000 crores for the higher education. Primary and school youth do not come in the category of youth population. Therefore, there is an imperative need to increase the allocation of fund for the youth. This means privatization of Indian education will lead to deprivation of quality education to many marginalized youths. Education loan is not the solution, instead quality education with subsidies to colleges and institutions is the need of the time. The policy should advocate for free and compulsory education to all its citizens, especially economically weaker and socially disadvantaged.
Further, the Youth Policy also focusses on providing value education to youth. Value education should be given to the children during school education. What young population required is opportunities to productive engagement. However, the values are not described in the policy. Young population has to be more productive, there should be a focus on scientific temperaments as well as ability to speak up. But there is a great constraint today on both the fronts, with too much focus on going back to the history than going forward with scientific temperaments.
Employment and other opportunities
Today employment for the youth is a major concern. Though the unemployment rates appear to be below 9%, the youth unemployment rates are more than 24%. It is the youth who face the major challenge of lack of opportunities for utilizing their energy towards productive engagements. Though there is a great push towards self-employment and entrepreneurship development, there is still a lethargy towards taking up self-employment as a career option.
A movement should be initiative to bring entrepreneurship as career options in the minds of school children. Such a plan is not envisaged in the policy document. It is a naked truth that, in most of the states more than 60% of the youth want a government job and remaining prefer private jobs. However, both for the parents as well as teachers in schools and college; self-employment as well as entrepreneurship is a last option. In the light of this, we need to create a generation which will get into innovation, creative engagements as well as entrepreneurship as first choice and not as last choice. Those countries prospered are the countries having business enterprises and larger focus on business promotion.
Health and Well being
Rural Health facilities require adequate doctors and facilities. Many Public Health Centres and Rural Hospitals do not have adequate staff, cleanliness and infrastructure to support to cater to the needs of the rural population. COVID-19 Pandemic has exposed to us the lack of preparedness for saving the lives of its citizens. Towards better health and wellbeing of young generation, it is imperative the we have to take the young generation out of WhatsApp universities and help them to reduce the use of time on mobile based games.
It is important for the government at panchayat level, block level, district level, city level, to make more and more space for sports and games. Such spaces are either shrinking day by day or reserved gardens as well as sports grounds are converted to concrete jungles denying the rights of the youth do exercise for fitness. “The Government of India will also invest in the holistic development of sportspersons through sports talent searches that will be expanded to be more comprehensive and inclusive while ensuring the availability of good coaches across the country”. This should not be dream unmaterialised.
First of all, the attitude of the policy makers towards youth has to change. The policy document says “Youth and Women are the leaders of Tomorrow”. This is the perspective in which the entire policy document is revolving around, which has to change. Youth and women are no more leaders of tomorrow but they are leaders of today. There is adequate opportunities and spaces to be created for them to come to the leaderships. Youth engagement in decision making bodies is largely limited. Both at the parliament and assembly, youth and women representation are very low. If 34% of the population is between 15-29 years, there should be an adequate representation for the said category. There are examples in the world that people below 25 years are playing a crucial role in the running of the governments of respective countries, then why not in India. Other concern is that while talking about youth leadership the entire focus is on Youth volunteering. At the same time entire processes will be of government driven and ministry driven. When it comes to running the country, the government says that the government which governed least is the best, but when it comes to running schemes and program and the government is interested in it the most. Where are the roles of civil society, youth led organizations in creating spaces and opportunities for youth in India?
The policy document says “Empowering and safeguarding the youth from marginalised and vulnerable communities will require investments in building a value-based social fabric. Efforts will be made to reduce acts of discrimination and violence while also providing the youth with safe spaces, knowledge, and support services for their social welfare”. Is this sentence mere a jargon? Thousands of young journalists who speak up, young couples going for inter religious, Khap panchayats against inter caste marriages, no lack of safe space for young people are contributing towards deprivation towards exercising their rights that are enshrined in the constitution.
Lakhs of young people are languishing in remand homes, in jails without trial and proper support mechanisms to live a dignified life. There are many examples where juvenile Justice Act is effectively implemented where remand homes become home away from home, like David Sassoon Hostel in Matunga. The rights to expression have been restrained at many occasions. These values are to be incorporated in curriculum. Even todays media is not promoting these values.
The policy document says that vulnerabilities is still existing. However, there is no action plan to eliminate the vulnerability and what is the plan to implementation them during the policy period. The policy generally says the marginalized people, but has not defined the marginalized, therefore the people with disabilities, LGBT community, youth in high risks are not finding a special mention in this policy document.
The document shows that, there will be one stop solution to all the ills which youth are facing today. However, what is this one stop solution? Who will run it and what is the budget required and others requirements are not clearly mentioned in the document?
It is always argued that sports budget is higher than the youth budget and when we talk about sports, the maximum fund is allocated to various sports bodies than ensuring sports facilities on the grassroots. As far as youth affairs budget is concerning, it is predominantly for NSS, NYKs and NCC and Adventure sports. However, hardly 10% of the youth population benefit from these facilities. 2000 crores for 45 crores population is just Rs.45/- per youth investment. This has to increase substantially. If we do not invest, can we get adequate dividend from the demographic advantage in India? Therefore, it is important to instruct the Corporate Social Responsibilities frame work, working with youth a priority area for support.
There is also a need to relook at the age categorisation mentioned in the Youth Policy. It was right in the previous policy documents; we considered a longer period of youthhood. The first policy considered youthhood between 18 to 35 years, later reduced to 15 to 29 years. It was right those days where larger population was inaccessible to education, high drop outs rates, and lack of internet connectivity and other issues.
Do we need to consider 15 to 29 i.e. almost 15 years as part of youthhood in the current policy?
Can we think of the following two polices?
- a) Adolescent Policy for 10 years to 18 years
- b) Youth Policy for 18 years to 24 years
If a thought is given on the above two, this will give a focused program and maximum for youth to utilise maximum potential of young people in the country. We can also have separate policy for sports where more than 24 years is considered for sports activities.
Finally, the policy document is prepared for 10 years, that is from 2021 and end with the period of sustainable development goal period i.e.2030. Its already 2022, the policy for review and discussion. By the time it will be approved and reaches to grassroots for implementation may be in 2025. Therefore, it is requested that the envisioning of Youth Policy should be done for next 25 years, as India celebrates centenary of its Independence in 1947, this policy with subsequent review after every 10 years will give the desired results to channelize the youth potential maximum for the nation building.
Mathew Mattam, Founder,
Centre for Youth Development & Activities,
Pune & YouthAid Foundation,