When Swami Vivekananda said, “catch them young,” the world listened; when Rahul Gandhi said it, the Congress implemented it. Emphasis on youth is part of the Congress manifesto for the upcoming elections - a significant move in the light of the fact that youth account for about 17 crore of India's 71.5 crore voters.
“Historically, the Congress has always been committed to empowering the young. The current manifesto reiterates that commitment,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari.
The party's plans for Gen Next have been well outlined in the manifesto in sync with Rahul's oft-repeated emphasis on involving the youth in constructive nation building. “India is a young country with 70 per cent of the population below the age of 35. To reap the demographic dividend, the Congress believes there is an urgent need to put in place an extensive
skill development programme so that the employability of youth is enhanced,” the Congress writes in the manifesto.
The Congress has planned to launch a voluntary National Youth Corps to engage those in the age group of 18-23 years to serve up to two years in nation building activities with “suitable” monetary assistance.
In its efforts to involve youth in politics and governance, the Congress has promised to reserve a proportion of seats in panchayats and nagarpalikas (city councils) for youngsters below 35 years as it seeks to open up a new political space and opportunities for youth in party affairs.
The manifesto also focuses on the widespread malnutrition in the country and talks of an expanded Integrated Child Development Scheme by March 2012. An anganwadi in every habitation besides “full coverage of children up to the age of six for food, nutrition and pre-school education” are also on the party's agenda.
The manifesto lays out special incentives, including monetary assistance and education, for the girl child to correct the adverse sex ratio.
“Over next five years, the Congress will endeavour to ensure that at least half of the country's rural women population is enrolled as members of self-help groups,” the party says. The party also promises loans and scholarships for students in college or university.