Observed every year on the 12th January, this day is especially dedicated towards the Indian Youth. But what is the current situation of our country’s youth population?
National Youth Day is celebrated every year on the 12th January in India, which marks the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. He was a pioneer in crystallizing the spirit of nationalism, amidst the freedom struggle and introducing modern interpretations of Hinduism, in sync with the western philosophies surrounding the ideals with an enthusiastic representation of yoga, transcendental meditation, and other forms of spiritual philosophies across the west. His birth date has been celebrated as the National Youth Day ever since 1985, as a decision undertaken by the Government of India who felt that the philosophy of Swami Vivekananda, and the ideals which he popularized, would prove to be a great source of inspiration for the Indian Youth. This year marks his 156th birth anniversary.
Vivekananda’s global influence has been immense. Way back when there were no TED talks or internet to clarify the Western perception for the East, it was his speeches, which gained him immense popularity, and significance in the western world. His speech at the First Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Chicago in 1893 was one of his most impressive speeches. It was an impressive breakdown of the ancient Hindu philosophy delivered with logic and scientific insights. Hence, he is known as the Messenger of Wisdom to the Western World.
One must wonder how does all of this correspond to his presence as a youth icon? Why does his birth date mark as a national level festival? Swami Vivekananda represented the imagery of an ideal youth or a youngster. In layman’s term, an ‘all-rounder’. He was a curious and keen reader of various different subjects ranging from science to philosophy, with a keen interest in Hindu scriptures. He was trained in music, and had excellent sportsman skills. He had a very balanced approach to live life, followed by logic, and not merely blind religion.
Every year, there is a change in the theme of the event. However, it is always youth-centric. This year, the theme is ‘Channelizing Youth Power for Nation Building‘. Yuva Diwas is also celebrated in Canada, through the Vedanta Society of Toronto, to spread the message of Vedanta, as the world’s most ancient theosophy.
We have frequently heard the term, ‘India’s Youth Are the World’s Future’, but how appropriate is this in our present context?
The Indian demographic provides for more than 600 million people below the age of 25, making it the only country with the highest youth population. However, the larger chunk of this population is not being utilized in a proper way. History is a witness to the fact that a large youth population definitely influences political movements. Take a cue from the civil rights movement in America, or during the Baby Boomers’ period when over 79 million people were born in the period between 1946-64. In the Indian context, the youth can bring a huge change. The freedom struggle was a majority of the nation’s youth, fighting for the freedom of our country. However, this enthusiasm in the youth today is eloping somewhere else, far away from the tracks of zeal. Despite the fact that India garners one of the biggest youth populations in the world, it still faces a massive unemployment gap. The young Indian workforce does not have the ideal jobs, lacks the required skills, or is not invested in a proper formal sector, with strict employment rules.
According to the recent statistics by the International Labour Organization, India has a very large vulnerable job share in the overall employment market. Out of the 1.4 billion jobs that are vulnerable globally, nearly 394 million or 28% are in India alone.
In Pawan Aggarwal’s research paper titled India’s Youth Challenge, published by Harvard International Review, he states, “India’s growing youth population need not be a blessing. What Arvind Panagariya fails to consider in ‘The Global Profession’ (Review, Winter 2011) is that India’s youth bulge and their galloping aspirations can be a recipe for disaster.”
The Indian GDP is reputable as the fastest growing economy in the world, but despite the 7.4% expected growth in real terms; India is not creating sufficient jobs. Despite the evidence that India has a big demographic dividend, it is still not able to compete with countries like China and Japan which are already facing problems due to aging population, creating a dependence on the state, and economic system for social security. The low employment levels worsen the situation with the problem of low wages. Indian employees are severely underpaid. With over 80% of the male Indian workers, and 99% of female workers making less than INR 10,000 a month, presents a grave picture of our economy and its job structure.
Arpita Chhikara, a business analyst at KPMG and a graduate of Jesus and Mary College comments, “The job market in India is at a very severe stage. The newspapers and the internet is filled with shocking revelations. I feel that the efforts towards mobilizing youth are not undertaken whole-heartedly. Take a cue from the rising levels of depression among the Indian youth for not finding the desired jobs, or due to being underpaid. There are no fairytales here.”
While, Apeksha Jain, a second year B.Com programme student of Shaheed Bhagat Singh College comments, “The cut-throat competition is such a shocking factor. Despite having the most amazing professional qualifications, I see the youth struggling to find a good job. There is so much stress that surrounds them, which is unhealthy for their mental health as well.”
Despite the Government’s efforts, there have not been much tangible results. The government needs to encourage entrepreneurial efforts, which leads not only to self-employment, but also to job creation. Take a cue from the rise in the start-up culture in India, which has seen a massive growth. A NASSCOM research in India suggested the growth of almost 3100 Technological start-ups in India since 2010, with many more having risen in the recent years.
Hence, this Yuva Diwas, let us work towards a nation where the youth cluster is successful, and works to its maximum potential, instead of being the underutilized assets of the nation.
Feature Image credits: Cultural India