India, the world’s largest democracy, also has the world’s largest national population of youth. Yet, most young people do not view politics and India’s politicians positively, with adjectives like corrupt, dirty, and complicated used to describe their opinions on Indian politics. Albert O Hirschman, an economist and Nobel laureate, in his book “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty”, speaks about how citizens, when they find government services deteriorating, either exit the system or voice their concerns. Unfortunately, a recent study conducted by a think tank showed that more and more young people are leaning towards “exiting” the system.
Young people are often excluded or overlooked as political candidates. Politics is typically regarded as a space for politically experienced men, and while women are often disadvantaged in accumulating experience to run for office, young people are systematically marginalised because of their young age, limited opportunities, and assumed lack of experience. As the increased political participation of women benefits society as a whole, the presence of young people in decision-making positions benefits all citizens and not just youth.
Statistics say that 65% of India’s population is below the age of 35 years and yet only 6% of our leaders and ministers in India are below the age of 35 years. In the current Lok Sabha, just 12% are youth leaders. India is home to a fifth of the world’s youth demographic and this population advantage could play a critical role in achieving the nation’s ambitious Good Governance targets.
Young people often play central and catalysing roles in movements for democracy around the world. They are less engaged than older generations in voting and party activism. Together, these trends have inspired many international organisations to study the lack of youth political participation and train youth activists to become political leaders. We have a future in probably every field there has ever been. There are so many people who want to be pilots, journalists, filmmakers, and techies, but why are there no future politicians? Why there are no future Prime Ministers and Presidents? What is it that is holding the youth back from venturing into this particular field?
On delving deeper into question, numerous thoughts come to mind. The primary reason for lack of participation of youth in politics may be the current scenario of politics in India. The system today reeks of dishonesty, corruption, malpractices and has become just a money game ruled by those who wield immense power. The cherry on the cake is nepotism and its ability to overpower ability and talent. Such conditions are swaying the youth away from politics and thus the system is losing out on energy and potential which surely can make a difference. The way the tales of corruption of politicians are coming out every day, indifference towards politics is increasing among the youth of the country.
India needs more leaders from marginalised communities who are willing to represent their community’s interests independently. Leaders need to be community-oriented, well-informed, enthusiastic about building bridges, committed to systemic change, and compassionate. Today the youth of India want to touch new heights but sadly, some are stopping them. The youth of India settle abroad rather than contribute to India. There is a need for active involvement of youth in politics because of a number of reasons. Firstly, they have a constructive vision for the future and the fact that they have achieved milestones in other fields proves that they can change politics, too. Secondly, the system needs them. Let’s prepare the youth or at least tell them that politics is their own, this country is their own, we need the leaders of tomorrow, we need people today to run their own country. You live in a democracy, so feel like it.
The writer is a lawyer and Fellow at Leadership School (15-month leadership programme across India). He can be reached at [email protected]