Not happy with the poor representation of youth in political parties, youngsters in Patiala district are feeling marginalised. The winds of change, they feel, will blow only if they have a greater say in the political system. To begin with, they want the ban on student elections in universities and colleges of Punjab to be lifted and the practice of promoting kith and kin of political heavyweights to be discontinued.
In an interaction with HT in the open-air theatre of Punjab University on Thursday, students spoke their heart out on the problems and challenges facing Punjab. HT resident editor Ramesh Vinayak moderated the discussion.
Stressing on the need to infuse fresh blood in the political system, they feel dynastic politics should be done away with to create level playing field. Politics, they rue, has been reduced to a family affair, and this trend has done no good to Punjab. They call for inducting energetic youth in politics, regardless of political background or affiliations.
Students of Punjab University, Patiala and various colleges of the district took part in the discussion. Taking on both the SAD and the Congress for ignoring youth, they alleged that nearly all leaders of these parties were out to promote their relatives. In the process, youth have been neglected and their concerns and aspirations have taken a backseat.
They feel there is no space for youngsters from ordinary families in state politics. “Infusing young blood in politics can bring about a sea change in the political and administrative system of the country. When 70% of India’s population is less than 35 years of age, why are youth not getting their due?” they asked.
“Family-based politics has become an infectious trend in Punjab. As a result, many youth leaders do not get a chance to make it to politics. The government wants the ban on student elections to stay because politically influential families do not want any competitors,” said Amarinder Singh, a student of the University College of Engineering of Punjab University.
The youth also deliberated on issues like drug addiction, the use of money power in elections, the poor health and education infrastructure in the state and the exploitation of youth by political parties during elections. The students lamented that only two political parties were running the state and voters did not have a third alternative to bring about the much-needed change.
“In view of the vitiated political atmosphere in Punjab, we do not feel like voting. Unless people have a good political alternative, no major development can take place in the state. Moreover, there is a need to create political awareness among people to acquaint them with the problems prevailing at the ground level,” said Pooja, a student of Patel Memorial College, Rajpura.
Demanding a thrust on reforms in the education system, the students criticised political parties for ignoring the education sector, which should have been their first priority.
“The system is only producing clerks. Only the rich can afford higher education. The privatisation of education has ruined students whose parents are not so financially well off. The flawed examination system has also put an unnecessary burden on us,” said Kulwinder Singh, a political science student of Punjabi University.
The participants also raised concern over lack of health facilities in the state and the drug menace among Punjabi youth. “Political bigwigs don’t want to awaken the youth of Punjab. They are aware that if this happens, many Bhagat Singhs would be born and their time would be up,” said Rajiv, a political science student of Punjab University.
Vishav Sharma, a student of University College of Engineering (UCOE), Punjabi University, said that instead of cursing political parties, youth should direct their energies towards entering politics. “One has to be in the system to change the system. We will have to enter the muck to clean it. There is no other way. Before taking up developmental issues, we should stand together on a common platform to demand lifting of the ban on student elections,” he said.