Neither is Rahul Gandhi young nor are his ideas.
First off, why do people still consider Rahul Gandhi a ‘youth’ leader? He’s 48-years-old. The average age of the Indian population is 29-years and we are well on our way towards becoming the youngest country in the world by 2020 with almost two-thirds of our people in the working age group. It would be safe to say that Rahul Gandhi is not quite the young man anymore.
But more importantly, even his ideas on the subject appear dated.
The 48-year-old ‘young’ Rahul responded to the question by saying: “You are powerful and brave. Futures are not built on anger and hate. Politics in India is trying to tell you that the future is an angry one but your strength comes from love & affection, not anger.” He added, “You can compete with anyone as an Indian because over the last 70 years, the country has built infrastructure for you. This country has given you IITs and IIMs. You owe it to the country and the poor to help them. Don’t work for yourself, you need to work for the weak and poor in India.”
In Rahul Gandhi’s worldview – and practically every Indian politician’s worldview – the ‘youth’ conjures up an image of engineers and MBAs passing out from IITs and IIMs, going abroad and working selfishly for themselves. This select group of elite individuals is the epitome of success in politicians’ eyes and every young Indian needs to aspire for it.
The reality is that IIT, IIM and NIT graduates consist of only 3 per cent of our total student population at any given point in time. What’s more, perhaps due to this bizarre worldview of our policy-makers, more than 50 per cent of the whole country’s higher education budget is spent on them. Simply put, it’s about time our leaders move out of this dated mentality and look at the problems of the actual the remaining 97 per cent of the students who attend 865 higher educational institutes in the country. They need to realise that young India, as it stands now, is uneducated, unemployed and unemployable. Lofty ideas about their problems are just not going to cut it anymore.
There is no denying that there is a job shortage. There is a very real fear that India is now in crisis mode. According to a World Bank report, in 2017 India had 1.83 crore unemployed people and this number is projected to go up to 1.89 crore by 2019. But Indian students, in general, are also unemployed because they are simply not up to the mark, unskilled and ill-equipped to do the jobs up for offer. We live in a country where for 368 vacant posts for peons in Uttar Pradesh 23 lakh people applied. 255 of them were doctorate degree holders fighting for a Rs 16,000 per month job.
The unemployment crisis intensifies when we consider the fact that only 2 per cent of our total workforce is skilled. So much so that companies like HCL Technologies have started hiring high school kids for entry-level jobs. They’d rather spend money and time training these employees themselves than let them go through our engineering colleges and gain zero skills that they need to perform the required tasks. In simple words, India has a young demographic which is joining the workforce in huge numbers, in a situation when there are very few jobs available and when there are jobs, companies don’t want to hire unskilled workers. This is a serious problem and our politicians don’t seem to have solutions to it. They get away with giving wishy-washy answers instead of actually considering the nuances and complexities of the situation.
All of this leads to an immense amount of frustration in a restless young population. That is when someone like Narendra Modi comes in and sells incredible dreams to Young India. “Anything is possible,” he says. “Become job creators instead of job seekers.”
Even before Modi came to power, all of his pre-election speeches were laced with this dreamy imagery, which was meant to percolate into the minds of the frustrated jobless young Indians and win them over. It might have worked then, but the big question is, will it work again?
It’s not like Rahul Gandhi doesn’t see the problem. In London, he made a blanket statement that “people support populist leaders like Mr Trump and Mr Modi because they are angry that they don’t have a job. Instead of solving this problem these leaders ride on that anger. They damage the country by this.”
It’s time for Rahul Gandhi and our policymakers to move away from these oversimplified observations and rhetoric and understand the nuances of the issue.
And they need to do it fast because young India is restless.
Meghnad S. is a political analyst and a Parliament nerd.
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