Celebrated annually on 12 August, International Youth Day is meant to platform and mainstream young people’s voices, actions and initiatives in building more robust communities.
The concept was first suggested by youngsters gathered in Vienna in 1991 for the first edition of the World Youth Forum of the United Nations System. In 1999, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the recommendation that had been made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth in Lisbon the previous year, and declared that 12 August would be observed as International Youth Day.
This year’s theme is ‘Youth Engagement for Global Action’, which seeks to highlight the ways in which young people’s voices and actions are contributing to national and global conversations on a host of issues, and the ways in which they and their issues can be better represented in formal politics.
Youth activism in India
In the Indian context, youth activism has been in the spotlight in recent months, with protests against the CAA and the NRC being met with violence and police brutality, including on university campuses, and the incarceration of student activists such as Safoora Zargar, Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal.
Aishe Ghosh, president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU), who was injured in violence at the Delhi campus in January, tells ThePrint, “To ensure the participation of our youth at the global and international level, firstly we need to empower our youth by giving them space to speak and providing them with platforms where their thoughts and ideas are nurtured.”
She adds, “Increasing campus democracy, increasing youth platforms and giving them wider representation at the local level and stopping imposition of old ideas on them are extremely important. To increase participation of our youth, we must encourage them to speak on policies and politics.”
Unemployment weighing on everyone’s mind
It’s not always easy to speak up and stand up for others when one’s own future hangs in the balance, but that’s exactly what this year has been about. The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in layoffs and pay cuts across industries.
India Today’s Mood of the Nation survey noted that out of the 12,021 respondents, while 63 percent suffered income losses due to the pandemic, 22 per cent have lost their jobs. Further, according to job portal Naukri.com, hiring across Indian cities slumped by 50 per cent this May as compared to last year.
India’s unemployment rate had reached 27.1 percent in early May with as many as 122 million losing their jobs between March and April, according to the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy.
CMIE also noted that around 27 million people in the age group between 20-30 years lost their jobs due to the Covid lockdown. Young people, who typically occupy entry-level positions, are usually the first to be let go when there is a crisis. Fresh data however shows that overall unemployment rate in July came down to 7.43 per cent from 10.99 per cent in June, but it is not enough in a country where the majority of the population is under 35 years of age. .
“We are going through tough times due to the pandemic and hence we need to be careful and have a longer view of things. The government should focus on facilitating economic growth as a whole rather than too much into targeted goodwill generating schemes,” former IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan tells ThePrint.
Despite these looming worries, many young urban Indians have stepped up to help those in greater need during the pandemic, be it arranging transport for migrant workers struggling to get home or going shopping for elderly people who cannot go out to get essential supplies.
Aishe Ghosh adds that today “the youth is protesting against the EIA draft 2020 as we fear that corporates will be given massive power and a freehand through this bill and this might lead to more incidents like Vizag’s gas leak and the Assam oil well blowout”.