Be it setting up schools in rural areas, or using their professional degrees to serve the masses, youngsters across the nation have now taken it upon themselves to bring about positive social change.
This trend is reflective of an increasing awareness of responsible social behavior. Take the case of a chemical engineering graduate from IIT Madras, who took a one year sabbatical from his lucrative job as a software engineer to contribute towards creating awareness about the importance of voting among Indian citizens prior to the recent parliamentary elections; or that of a young advertising graduate, who came up with the idea of light out or the Batti Bandh campaign in the bustling city of Mumbai to create awareness on the issue of global warming. All these are just a few instances where young Indians are striving towards contributing to important social causes.
Sheriff of Mumbai and Principal, HR College of Commerce and Economics, Mumbai has words of praise for the Indian youth. She says, the youth today are an extremely responsible lot. Take for instance, the reaction to the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai. My phone was inundated with calls and messages from students, who wanted to help citizens equip themselves to tackle such disasters and untoward incidences in the future. They held a meeting within two days of the attacks and after a lot of discussion and brain storming the students came up with the idea of the Alert Youth initiative. This initiative was aimed at preparing the youth to be equipped and capable of handling situations that arise as a result of any unforeseen circumstances. It involved training and empowering young people through first responders workshops, EMSE training and fire drills.
Mr.M too was involved in encouraging people to demonstrate their solidarity with the city. He made an attempt to unite different voices that emerged after 26/11 by informing citizens about the various activities that were taking place around the city in the wake of the terror attacks.
Speaking about the youth’s willingness to participate in social development processes, Project Coordinator of the youth rights wing of the NGO, Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action, declares. The youth are always looking for opportunities to participate, as well as react to any incident that affects society.
However, in a nation where 41 percent of the population is below 15years and where the average age of a citizen is expected to be 29 years by 2020 such instances of proactive participation are few; even today a majority of youngsters prefer to go the tried and tested way. Unfortunately young people still lack the courage and belief to do something different. This is the reason they prefer to take up stereo typical jobs that promise them a bright future. Moreover, our society does not provide the youth the platform to do both – contribute to causes of social change and move on with their regular lives. The attitude of the society is such that you are either for it or not.
Many agree that society comprising the education system, family as well as youth themselves, are accountable for the situation. Our society is negligent about youth participation in social activities. Moreover, our education system is based on market needs and the primary focus of education in India is to churn out professionals who can earn a living for themselves. To say the least, the government too is not motivating youth participation in social activities. The family is to be blamed. The Indian education system trains students to be responsible citizens. However, unfortunately not many adults emulate what has been taught in school. Adults need to set examples for the youth and reinforce the values inculcated through the education system.
The unanimous opinion is that the education system should try and incorporate responsible social behavior among students by means of various practical subjects. Our education system needs to integrate more practical work. Subjects like disaster management, ethics and corporate values should be made mandatory, in order to enable students to learn from, hands on experiences. Also, parents should involve their children in dining table discussions, as this is where true values are imbibed. We need to involve the youth in more dialogue at all levels – education, home, as well as the communal level. Also, during instances such as 26/11 the youth should take proactive measures and try and get complete information about what is happening around them. They need to involve themselves in alternative thinking processes and mobilize themselves into groups, voice their opinions and then take appropriate action.
Lastly, just as Gandhi mentioned, be the change you want to see in the world. Youngsters too need to be the change they want to see in their society.