HindustanTimes Thu,27 Nov 2014
Corruption 'biggest challenge': 42.6% of young, urban Indians believe
Praneta Jha, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, August 10, 2013
First Published: 21:22 IST(10/8/2013)
Last Updated: 23:20 IST(14/8/2013)

In the aftermath of the December 16 gang-rape, they gave India her biggest protest in recent memory, thus refuting generalisations about the middle-class youth being socially apathetic. But that sense of social responsibility seems to have waned.

According to the HT-MaRS Youth Survey 2013, only 42.1% of the urban young from the upper and middle classes in the country believe they must give something back to society.

Youngsters in Chennai emerged as the most philanthropic with 55% of the respondents saying they want to give back to society while only 31% in Ahmedabad said so.

42.1 % of India's youth want to give something back to society. (HT Photo)

Sociologist Shiv Visvanathan cites a lack of trust in social systems as a barrier to service. Indeed, 42.6% of young, urban Indians believe corruption is the biggest challenge facing the country. As a problem, it trumps terrorism (12.3%), unemployment (12.2%), poverty and hunger (10%), illiteracy (7.3%) and income inequality (5.1%). Clearly, the vociferous anti-corruption movements in the past couple of years have had their effect. “Corruption is the most advertised public problem. Most people assume the money is anyway going elsewhere, not being used for the purpose it’s meant for,” said Visvanathan.

18-25 year-olds in Chennai were the most philanthropic with 55% saying they want to give something back while only 31% of Ahmedabad’s youth said so. (HT Photo)

But what keeps the young from attempting to serve society? Almost half (48.2%) said it was lack of money while 38.3% cited a lack of time.

Ahmedabad had the maximum youngsters (73%) who said they did not have enough money to be socially responsible. “It’s hard enough to meet daily expenses, thanks to inflation and little or no savings. Where is the money for social service?” said Aditya Jain, 24, a graphic designer in Ahmedabad.

In Jaipur, almost a quarter said they had no interest in serving society.

Writer and social activist Nityanand Jayaraman is not surprised. “Between our nuclear families and segregated education systems, children from upwardly mobile classes in cities grow up with no sense of community and no exposure to what life is like for most people,” he said. “They grow up with a belief that their good life is a birthright.”

Visvanathan said serving society may not be a priority for 18-to-25-year-olds, especially if they are upwardly mobile aspirants with many anxieties of their own.

“They have to focus on themselves, if they want a career. Perhaps when they reach 60, they may want to give something back. But many people at 60 give back to god instead of society,” Visvanathan said. “The sense of reciprocity and responsibility to give something back are very high within the family and kinship networks. But an individual’s relationship with society is more contractual, so there is not much reciprocity.”

In Jaipur, almost a quarter said they were just not interested in giving back. (HT Photo)

However, the spirit of community service is not completely lost among the youth;  42.2% of the respondents said they had donated books or clothes to the poor. One-third of the respondents from Kolkata have given food to the homeless. Delhi’s youth came out on top (32.3%) among those who had participated in a cleanliness drive in the past one year even though almost 40% of Kolkata’s youth confessed to having littered. Only 11.8% of the youth said they were guilty of drinking and driving while 21.6% confessed they had broken traffic rules in the past. So while serving society may not top the agenda of the urban youth, their acknowledgement of what they are doing wrong is a sign that there is hope for change.

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youth speak

Shubhangi Goel

Shubhangi Goel

Shubhangi Goel, 23, CA with Anil Goel and Associates, B.Com (P) from Delhi College of Arts and Commerce (2010).

My way or high way: This phrase is perfectly right in today’s world, else you won’t reach anywhere.

Citizen Journalism makes a difference: Yes it does. Be aware and make others aware too.

Best way to deal with Social Pressure: Do not pay too much attention to what others say. The more attention you pay, the more pressure they will mount. 

Best way to impart quality education: That can happen only when the education laws/ acts for SCs, STs, the underprivileged are implemented properly. Also, we need to understand the exact meaning of education. We all are in a hurry to attain a degree. Education has become a business today.

Rahul Asopa

Rahul Asopa

Rahul Asopa, 25, Business Manager with IMI Mobile Pvt. Ltd. (Software company)

My way or high way: For me it’s about self-respect. I do bother about society but not to that extent.

Citizen Journalism makes a difference: Yes, it plays a major role. Through social networking websites, some of the commoners are doing a really great job. CJ is about spreading awareness.

Best way to deal with Social Pressure: Stay calm. Do your job. If you are good at your work, no matter how much people gossip about you, at the end of the day you will earn their respect.

Best way to impart quality education: High fee is the main problem. In rural areas, there is so much poverty that parents don’t want to send their kids to school. The number of dropouts from schools is quite high. In urban areas, many cannot study the subjects they are passionate about because of the high fee. Fee in educational institutions should be reduced.

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