With 50% of its population currently under 25 years, India is the youngest country in the world. Yet, the youth of today have not been given the opportunity to register their needs. With an aim to create a space for youth where they can participate in the political process all the year round, Community — The Youth Collective (CYC) in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund Agency and a coalition of over 45 civil society organisations has come together with a ‘My Space, My UnManifesto’ campaign. It is an initiative led by the youth of the country to create a one-of-its-kind, crowd-sourced and youth powered manifesto.
But, what is an unmanifesto? “Alice in Alice and Wonderland celebrates un-birthdays, which means she is celebrating almost every day of the year. Similarly, we want to create spaces for youth where they can celebrate and embrace politics each day of the year, not just on the Election Day. Instead of playing the blame game, young people can be prepared to claim the democratic spaces for themselves by experiencing it firsthand,” says Aparna Ravi, associate coordinator of the campaign.
The programme is working on-ground through workshops where young people are made to think of themselves as stakeholders in the society, which in turn makes them responsible towards it.
“Many young people think that they want to remain away from politics because it is a dirty game. But what they don’t realise is that politics is all around us. Each of us is a politician, like it or not. Politics is nothing but participation in organising, influencing and decision making within a group,” says Ravi.
The UnManifesto coalition partners work with a diverse cross-section of young people –urban, rural, college graduates, dropouts, Dalits, tribals, sex workers and transgender communities, religious minorities, young men and women. Through this process the campaign brings out the voices of youth from diverse and marginalised sections of population and creates learning and leadership around the democratic and political process.
“Today, a disjuncture exists between what the youth aspire to and what is offered to them. We aren’t just demographic dividends deferred to an uncertain future. The youth of today has asserted their presence in some of the key protests in the last few years. Not only have they articulated their aspirations but also held the government responsible for its actions. As aware citizens, responsible change-makers and voters, it’s time that we claim our stake in the Indian democracy,” says Astha Agarwal, a volunteer who studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
A journey that started in September 2013, CYC has a presence in 20 states and two union territories with outreach of one lakh youth on-ground and 14.5 lakh through online platforms. More than 70,000 promises have been collected from a diverse group of youth, with 45 politicians and more engaging with these promises.
“We are making a genuine attempt to influence party manifestos for the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections of 2014 by reaching out to different ­political figures at appropriate points during the journey,” says Ravi.
The demands have been in all spheres — a better education system with stronger ­emphasis on implementation of Right to Education (RTE), amending of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in north eastern states, demanding safe public spaces for women with greater emphasis on fighting violence against women, voicing the need for good-quality 24 hour hospitals in remote rural areas, the need for decriminalisation of article 377 of the Indian Penal Code, the requirement of passing of the 33% reservation for youth and women in Parliament, the urgency of passing of Lokpal bill to curb corruption, the dire need of providing unemployment wages for the people above the age of 21, and not just demanding legalisation of sex work but also providing sex workers with health benefits and pensions.
So, the stage is set. The young are determined. This election they are making sure that they are heard. “It doesn’t end here, this is just a beginning,” concludes Agarwal.
What’s on their wishlist
They are first-time voters in the Lok Sabha elections and have a long list of expectations from the new government. Students from city colleges give us their wishlist on the changes they would like to see as far as education is concerned
Srishti Chaudhary, Lady Shri Ram College for Women
Textbook education isn’t the only education. They say that anything worth learning isn’t learnt from the textbooks. So, I wish that the new government recognises the need for practical learning and allocates resources and facilities to universities for sending ­students abroad for semesters, travelling and learning about the ways of the world
Navya Sikka, St Stephen’s College, Delhi university
I hope the HRD ministry takes steps to revamp the syllabus prescribed by the CBSE as it is very basic. Instead of teaching us thought-provoking lessons in various subjects or inculcating in us the habit of raising questions, one is forced to treat one’s textbook as the Bible, thus constricting the minds of young readers with no room for interpretation and ­narrowing their vision
Sakshi jain, SRCC, Delhi University
The problem lies not so much with the education system but more so in the process of its evaluation. Even after years we haven’t moved to original thinking... The purpose hence should be redefined to reward originality, skills, innovation and creativity and not dictate the status quo of students according to their grades in one examination. We need a new model of evaluation across institutions
Gurjot Sidhu, Hans Raj College, Delhi University
I think there should be decentralisation of the education system to a certain extent. School students, especially undergraduates, should be given the liberty to choose what subjects they would like to study, rather than having a pre-defined curricula. The learner should hold the reins of his education in his own hands and should be allowed to design his own degree
Adhiraj Dev Dogra, IMT-Ghaziabad
I expect the new government to try to bridge the gap between theory and practical education. A model must be introduced, perhaps inspired from that of Singapore, where emphasis is given to conceptual understanding and not rote learning. This will ensure holistic education is imparted to students which also focuses on improving their skills in the long run. Making the curriculum and courses ­interdisciplinary is what we should be aiming at
Ritwik Mallik, Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies
I believe that higher education in the country should be opened up for big, reputed private players, including the corporates. This will ease the government’s burden of providing high quality education, as these companies have enough resources at their disposal to employ the best faculty, establish the best infrastructure and impart a learning that enhances the skill sets of the students. If we improve on these aspects, Indian institutions can do much better on the world rankings
Manini Mathur, Amity University, Noida
Education should be more job oriented. If there are enough jobs and clear guidelines for recruitment by the government, this will enable educational institutions to make changes in their curricula accordingly. As far as education is concerned it should be practical and skill oriented. Education should be such that it teaches life skills and values and keeps one engaged, thereby helping teenagers to be more focussed. I hope the new HRD minister takes steps to ensure all this
Raghav jain, Hans Raj College, Delhi University
The Indian education system should do away with any kind of reservation or quota system. No matter how radical this may sound, to promote meritocracy, admission to colleges should be solely on the basis of marks and marks alone