How is the present generation different from their parents'? Well, a straight answer is that today's youth are more self-aware and aspirational. Both these attributes - spurred and shaped hugely by the implosion of tech-powered information dissemination - are making them restless for change in our rusty system. Indeed, much of the change that we see in our orbits daily is driven by the young generation.
But who are these young change-makers? What inspires them to challenge the status quo? How are they impacting the world around them? These questions prompted the Hindustan Times to launch a unique editorial initiative in 2011 to identify and celebrate the northern region's 30 dynamic achievers under the age of 30 from a diverse range of professions. Last year, we scaled it up by holding the HT Youth Forum that felicitated the high-fliers and also engaged the audience through a panel discussion led by some of the nation's celebrated young faces. The theme was 'Is India short of youth icons?'
Pegged aptly to the International Youth Day, the 'Top 30 Under 30' listing has since become the most-coveted feature that our readers, especially the youth, look forward to. And it's time again to recognise the year's young achievers, the new emblems of inspiration from Chandigarh, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. Over the next six days, we will publish back-to-back centrespreads featuring the 2013 edition of young high-fliers and their trailblazing feats.
The youth hold the key in these times of political and economic uncertainty, as India has much to bet on the new generation that makes us incredibly hopeful about the future. The nation is getting younger - in age as well as spirit - with over 50% of the population below the age of 25 and about 65% below 35. The new generation is coming of age too. Activism and youth now go together more than ever before, thanks to the internet to a major extent. Youth have increasingly been at the vanguard of nationwide protests, both on the streets and on social media, be it against the Delhi gangrape, corruption, or solidarity with whistleblower bureaucrats such as Ashok Khemka and Durga Shakti Nagpal.
But, the key questions that remain are: How deep is the youth's engagement to change? Are they the grassroots agents of change or just Google gladiators and "selectivists"?
Quite aptly, thus, the central theme for this year's HT Youth Forum on August 9 is: 'Indian youth: Change-seeker or change-maker?'
Brainstorming this critical issue will be union minister for information and broadcasting Manish Tewari, member of Parliament Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra, Bollywood actors Ayushmann Khurrana and Richa Chadda, and Miss India World 2013 Navneet Kaur Dhillon.
Alongside the profiles of the 30 achievers in the run-up, we will feature snapshots of India Youth Survey 2013, an exhaustive mapping of youngsters' responses on a variety of hot-button issues such as politics, consumerism, relationships and social networking. To engage a wider audience, youth's views on what it takes to be a change-maker will run concurrently as 'vox pop' over the next six days in the run-up to the grand event.
As the country's leading media outlet, Hindustan Times believes that applauding youth achievers and engaging them in a meaningful dialogue is the way forward. In fact, the HT Youth Forum has grown much bigger than we could have anticipated three years ago while conceiving the idea of celebrating youth brilliance.
We hope you enjoy reading our special youth packages as much as we did putting them together.
Ramesh Vinayak, Senior Resident Editor