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National Youth Policy


By Dr S Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR)

New Delhi, June 15 : The steady flow of scams, one bigger than the previous and the bitter struggle between political opponents as also allies, has sadly made political analysts overlook a tiny but significant news — the proposed revision of the National Youth Policy announced by the Government of India.

Since independence, India has adopted literally hundreds of national policies, and many of these have been undergoing periodical revisions in conformity with international resolutions, if any, and also to suit changing needs, aspirations and perceptions in the society.  All policies of any Government are ultimately interrelated with one another and with the constitutional rights, duties, and directives.

A fortnight ago, the Draft National Youth Policy 2012 was published by the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, which is revision of the earlier policy adopted in 2003. That decade old policy was also a revision of the first National Youth policy adopted in 1988.

Drafting a policy for an age-group comprising a population with all the heterogeneous features that can be found in the total population of this country is certainly no easy task. But, the framers of the policy have the advantage of  experience in working two earlier versions, a number of youth policies adopted in other countries, and deliberations and recommendations of international agencies to guide their endeavour.

The concept of youth policy can be traced to the 1960s and the first was adopted in Finland in 1965. The United Nations Economic and Social Council adopted a Resolution in 1965 emphasising the role of youth in national development. The Resolution became significant in the context of widespread student and youth movements in the United States and some European countries in the late 1960s.

The concept centred around the importance of youth in economic and social development as actors and beneficiaries.  The Indian government was also influenced by this idea, and as the first step, the Ministry of Education was re-designated as the Ministry of Education and Youth Services in 1969.  A separate department for Youth Affairs and Sports was created only in 1985 under the Ministry of Education and Culture, which was also reorganized as the Ministry of Human Resource Development.  A full-fledged Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports was created in 2000.

However, it is quite obvious that the preoccupation of this ministry will be with sports, which excites everyone irrespective of age, and non-sports matters of youth will have something like a secondary status. The Budget allocation within the Ministry reflects this unmentioned gradation.

While the youth policy is the concern of this Ministry, youth-concerned programmes are naturally scattered in a number of ministries and departments. The goal of the policy is to empower the youth of the nation by bringing holistic development.

Unlike the Youth Policy 2003, the draft policy of 2012 specifies the target groups of youth which include students, slum dwellers, migrants, rural and tribal youth, out-of-school youth and drop-outs, those at risk and in violent conflict, transgender, gays and lesbians, those suffering from HIV/AIDS and TB, those who suffer from social stigma, and youth in institutional care, correctional homes and prisons.

Priority groups mentioned are young women, youth belonging to the socially and economically disadvantaged communities and groups, and differently-abled persons. The concerns of target groups and priority groups therein are to be addressed through a subsequent action plan based on policy interventions which are mentioned in the policy itself.

The earlier policies as well as the present draft policy are so comprehensive that it can be safely asserted that the present state of youth in the country is not a result of policy deficiency.  Our governments do a brilliant job in framing laws and policies and rules and regulations, but fail only in drawing up programmes to give wide coverage, and in implementing them in letter and spirit without political considerations.

As a result, we are forever faced with some crucial problems such as school drop-out, unemployment, and gender injustice, no matter how many times we address these problems in policy statements. What we require is action and commitment and not mere reiteration of some lofty aims and objectives.

There is a growing consensus in many countries that youth participation is not only a demonstrated value, but also a political right. It is recognized in some and demanded in many parts of the world that young people should be key actors in the social-development processes.

Partly due to historic factors and also due to post-independence blunders in fixing priorities, India is still fighting illiteracy, child marriage, infant mortality, and malnutrition. So, we have a double task of uplifting those below to the ground level, and at the same time admitting young people as sufficiently empowered partners in nation-building.

Reforms come only when we act fast. More and further steps must be taken without halting the process. The draft policy mentions a number of interventions and young people must be allowed to bring their own experiences to develop appropriate interventions and services. It aims at creating a bond between the young people and the community so as to put the youth at the centre of country’s growth and development.

An important change introduced in the draft policy is redefinition of youth as 16-30 age group thus shortening by 8 years the range of 13-35 years recognized as youth in 2003 policy and by 5 years the span of 15-34 years recognized as youth in 1988 policy.  This is a much needed as the long span of 22 years under the old policy could result in a ridiculous situation  of bringing  at the same time a young  mother and her child under youth policy. The UN definition of youth as 15-24 age-group is not suitable for the late starters in India.

The policy also recognizes three categories of youth by age-group with distinct characteristics and needs as 16- 21 (adolescent), 22-25, and 26-30 — a grouping suggested long ago by some researchers.

The policy is exhaustive and gives a holistic approach and emphasizes integration with the mainstream development.  The country has a National Policy for Children (1974), National Charter for Children (2003), National Sports Policy (2001), National Nutrition Policy (1985), National Policy on Child Labour (1987), National Population Policy (2000), National Health Policy (2002), National Policy for Empowerment of Women (2001) – all of which are interrelated with the Youth Policy.

There are many common and continuing areas under these policies requiring integrated programmes wherever possible, and definitely a common approach. The success of the youth policy depends on the success of all related policies and cannot be achieved in isolation. — INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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