THE ROLE OF YOUTH IN STRENGTHENING CIVIL SOCIETY IN INDIA
Madhu S
THE ROLE OF YOUTH IN STRENGTHENING CIVIL SOCIETY IN INDIA Download as PDF
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 India is a young nation going by the Census Report, 2011 were youth (between ages 10-24) constitute 34 percent of the total population with 75 percent under age group of 35 growing at a rate of 2 percent from 2009. In a world where one in every four persons is a youth, every democratic system needs to absorb the aspirations of this vibrant group, especially as, across the globe, youth acquire the right to franchise at an average age of 18.  The significant number of youth population in India have acted as a stimulator for nation’s growth and as rightly pointed by the former President of India, Dr Zakir Hussain, ‘’Youth form the vanguard of the nation, which when properly channelized shall be instrumental for the development of the country”. This assumes significance when civil societies who are a necessary ‘change agents’ are run by youth or have active youth involved.
 
At a time when countries of the world are undergoing the process of democratization, where civil societies are playing a significant role, the countries have placed enormous responsibilities and expectations on the youth.  Understanding the challenges and difficulties which the youth encounters in the world, the United Nations had developed ‘The World Programme of Action for Youth in 2000’, to improve the situation of youth in different countries, and identified that full and effective participation of youth in life of society and decision making as a major priority area for intervention.
 
Participatory governance involving youth has been highlighted by many thinkers like Alexis de Tocqueville through the platform of civil societies. However, the number of youth actually involved in the government process is negligible. Currently, in India the number of youth (between 25-40) in the Parliament is 711. Further a mere 8.6 percent of them have been a part of student politics. A mere 25 percent of college students in India, aspired to become a student leader with voting pattern averaging 30-40 percent showing a lack of student representation and participation among the youth.2. It predicates the need for better representation of youth at a time when socio-political action and debates has gone viral, where four out of every five users in the world logging into facebook is a youth/adult (18-29 years), where 73 percent of wired American teens use social networking websites with an increase in internet usage of 74 percent among adults 18 years and older in 20093.   
 
It is at this juncture that civil societies play a crucial role in formulating opinion of youth and providing a platform for them to express their vision for the country.  Civil Societies need to produce ‘thought leaders’ by cultivating thoughts and expression on democracy, free speech and most importantly participatory governance among youth.
 
 Many civil society institutions need to tap the potential of youth who can add vigour and lend enthusiasm to cultivate social and political leaders for a dynamic working of democratic process.  The grassroots approach in solving issues provide the perfect training ground for them to understand the needs of the society and assist in the decision making process. The youth have been able to guide the society and assist in providing informed choice to the people. The Indo-US Nuclear deal is the best example wherein major prominent youth civil society organizations run campaigns and effectively used the tool of social network to give information of the benefits of the nuclear deal. Similarly they have been instrumental in throwing light on subjects like corruption (India Against Corruption), voter awareness (Jage raho), social entrepreneurship (Jagrithi Yatra) etc. There has been a serious effort in the part of civil societies, of late, to enter into politics. Though many see this as a serious threat to the very concept of civil society as it would act more as a political party or a sympathizer than effectively work for the society. The larger question is whether civil society can disenchant itself from politics and the political process, which without doubt is essential in a democratic setup. While, politicization of civil society is indeed belittling, but having influential civil society representatives in political system would only help in furthering the cause of democracy. The case arises when we have strong civil societies who work at the grassroot level than which are funded organizations having desirous motives. It is an open secret that large amount of money is flowing to various organization masquerading as civil societies aimed at uplifting people, especially rural poor. A system of checks and balance is required at such instance through a strong FCRA and Anti-money laundering regime in addition to a better regulatory setup under Societies and Registration Act.
 
The pivotal role of youth who are afresh with ideas and not ideals, will help in this movement towards a transparent civil society structure which can influence the political administration for the benefit of the society. For Eg: Youth Arts and Sports Club once a prominent site in Kerala’s villages had a dual role to encourage youths participation in social and political activities through awareness and also empowering the people for rights and assisting them at various levels. Over the years, this has decreased owing to the relative unimportance and support given by the political and state machinery in promoting such youth initiatives, inspite of the fact that they were effective systems to encourage youth towards politics and disseminate information at the grassroot level. It is only through a strong system of representation that democracy work and it is only through a strong youth representation that the dynamism and vigour of a country be maintained. It is therefore important to acknowledge the role of civil societies in empowering youth towards strengthening of the democratic system of the country. The solution lies to effectively utilize modern tools in disseminating the belief among youth on their participation and representation in democracy through civil society initiatives.
 
 
References:
1. Centre for the Study of Developing Societies Study, 2011
 
2. Study on Campus Democracy, Civitas Consultancies for Liberal Youth Forum India, 2011
 
3. Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2010
 
 
Mr. Madhu.S
Team Lead, Centre for Public Policy Research, Kochi
 
 

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