Specially created for Vikalp Sangam
as part of the Extraordinary Work of ‘Ordinary’ People series – EWOP Vol. 5
Can we dream of a future where the youth in India have vibrant and secure lives? Where every young person would have equal opportunities to develop and build self-confidence and esteem; to learn practical life skills; have equal access to secure and meaningful livelihoods as well as health care services, nutrition and safe food; to take decisions about their life’s choices and to chart out their dreams that would ensure their well-being?
Can we help inculcate values that would form the basis for a world that is democratic,
sustainable and equitable, where those like caring, respect, empathy, generosity, compassion and integrity form the basis of all our relationships, including those with nonhuman species?
India’s youth constitutes around 27.5%* of its population. The pressing need is to have policies and programmes in place, that not only strive to address issues that vulnerable sections of youth face (youth marginalized by economic situations, gender, class, caste, disabilities and so on), but to also be able to reach out to all youth to lay the foundation for a just world.
The year 2020 exposed our society’s severe fault lines even more, with COVID-19 bringing the entire world to an almost grinding halt. Everyone felt the impacts, but the disprivileged sections of society were the hardest hit by the sudden loss of livelihoods and jobs.
The months during the lockdown saw a large number of youth get involved in relief work, distributing food and other essentials to migrant labourers in the cities they were stuck in or on their long and arduous journeys home. While these efforts were laudable and were sorely the need of the hour, there were some young people who worked within their communities to build on the resilience that helped to stem the impacts of the lockdown.
There were also efforts by youth collectives, youth organisations and individuals who used the pandemic period to extend psychological support to cope with the stresses that the period created. This was crucial as the lockdown created many sources of anxieties: social isolation, insecurity of livelihoods and fear of ill health (one’s own and of loved one’s).
Some urban and rural youth networks and individuals used their digital connectedness to their advantage: offering and participating in on-line courses that sought to deepen meaningful dialogues over issues, enhancing skills or nascent interests, protesting against proposed environmental legislation, or proposed mining, dams or other big ticket projects.
There was a visible increase in interest in growing one’s food, to whatever extent was possible for people in different situations, especially cities. In villages, one heard of many instances where youth who had migrated to cities went back to their villages to help in farming, as well as students who used their time during the lockdown to help with their homestead gardens, or even help parents start them.
This document attempts to capture glimpses of some of these efforts and is an offering to keep hope alive. The pandemic made many young people realize how deep the fissures in society are, how fragile our planet is, and how scary futures could be. These stories of hope, resilience and collective dreaming by youth show that another world is truly possible. The hashtags we should popularize and that should trend are ones that reflect this other world!