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Monday, April 16, 2012

Youth and Parliamentary Democracy in India.

Invited Lecture on the topic entitled Youth and Parliamentary Democracy on 07/02/2012 on One Day Seminar on ‘Democracy Awareness’ organized by Kanianchal Government Higher Secondary School, sponsored by Parliamentary Affairs Department, Government of Kerala.

Let me first of all thank the organizers of this seminar programme for inviting me to present a paper on Youth and Parliamentary Democracy in India. Thank you for giving me this great opportunity.

Mohamed Bouazizi on 17 December and led to the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali 28 days later on 14 January 2011, when he officially resigned after fleeing to Saudi Arabia, ending 23 years in power.

The Tahrir woman or Blue Bra lady who sparked Egyptian youth protest against Hosni Mubarak.

It is relevant here to speaks an old saying that when the youth wanted to change world,old wanted to change youth.

“Youthness is the best time to be rich, and the best time to be poor.”


What is relevance of this topic?

Youth and parliamentary democracy required wider attention very recently because India lives in its youthness.

India is globally acknowledged as a young and dynamic country as 55% of its population is in the age group of 20-30 years[i].

Statistics like 72 % of India's population is below the age of 40, 47% of Indians is under the age of 20 and 10% of the world population is an Indian under 25 is a common assessment of India by all countries now.[ii]

This predominance of youth in the population is expected to last until 2050.

Today, over 35% of our population is below the age of 20.[iii]

By 2020, it is expected that 325 million people in India will reach working age, which will be the largest in the world.

This will come at a time when the rest of the developed world will be faced with an ageing population. It is estimated that by 2020, US will be short of 17 million people of working age, China by 10 million, Japan by 9 million and Russia by 6 million. At the same time, India will have a surplus of 47 million working people.

It’s often confusing to see the term while discussing youth and parliamentary democracy. But it requires special attention in the sense that to achieve more democracy we need a youth democracy. Democracy of young people.Its utmost important to make our young generation fitting to the demands of our parliamentary practices and politics.

. It is this population of young people which constitutes, for India, a potential demographic dividend.

But the challenge we face in this topic is how to communicate what is parliamentary democracy to young people. There are number of ways by which it can be communicated but which one is the most interesting one is very important.

What is meant by Youth?

Many countries draw a line on youth at the age at which a person is given equal treatment under the law – often referred to as the "age of majority’. This age is often 18 in many countries, and once a person passes this age, they are considered to be an adult. However, the operational definition and nuances of the term ‘youth’ often vary from country to country, depending on the specific socio-cultural, institutional, economic and political factors[iv]. United Nations' definition of youth is people from 15 to 24 years of age at UN Headquarters from 3-14 August in commemoration of International Youth Day[v].Population that falls within the age group of 13-32 (?) are said to be youth.

Yoth in India:Structural Stresses and Cultural Responses.

In many sense youth has become an unmanageable proposition for Indian society and polity.Alienation of youth from the value premises of socio-cultural milieus, participation of youth divisive primordial tendencies, propensity to drug addiction,excessive use of alcoholic intoxicants and extreme form of protest like self –immolation especially in (Mandal Strikes ), and spoliling age and time in the walled gardens of social networking ,these are all symptomatic of structural stresses .

Unfortunately youth are in fact in the dark age.They riddle behind meaningless images. Lot imageries stimulate their public behavior.

Jeans ,Glass and Cap

A youth typically and visually representing the new world of youth in India was the idea of a pair of jeans: blue jeans, black jeans, studded jeans, jeans with patch pockets, jeans with messages, jeans, jeans, jeans. They have become a ubiquitous symbol of youth in India, from the large village, to the small town, to the big city; from the designer, to the fake designer, to the locally crafted; from the student at college, to the youth in the informal sector of the economy; from the student’s wing of the Congress to the student wing of the Communists (no petty bourgeois attire this), from the troubled regions of India’s North East to the conservative temple towns of India’s South, a pair of jeans has become the new symbol of having arrived in modernity. Jeans constitute a style statement announcing who you are, your identity. They suggest connection with the global and also perhaps, because of an abundance of local brands and local designs, and the local cultural contexts in which they are situated, that such a connection should not be overstated. Jeans and their place in the symbolic world of Indian youth lend themselves to an interesting cultural deconstruction.


Cell phones are the way to stay connected with family and friends, access the Internet and in some instances, get into trouble. The impact of cell phones on today's youth is astronomical. All the cool kids have a phone and know how to text faster than most can type on a full-size keyboard. However, cell phones have become a problem, and there is no end in sight. If you have a child with a cell phone, or one who wants a phone, you should know the effects of phones on today's youth.

Mobile phones have become an integral part of the lives of young Indians. Youngsters nowadays just cannot do without their phones. They spare time in using mobile for listening to music,SMS and texting, taking pictures, playing games,accessing internet,etc. Youth are just spoiling their useful and worthful age in misusing this technology.The question is if they are gown enough to use it sensibly?

Internet and Online Social Networking

“If you’re not on MySpace, you don’t exist” – Skyler, 18, to her mom[vi]

(Danah Boyd)

Excessive Internet use is emerging as one of the more negative aspects of young people's online activities. Of course social networking is really useful.But question arises when.It is useful only when it is used in a limit.Nowadays youths dont even find time to meet or greet their friends,relatives or for that matter anybody. Locking oneself in a room,logging into S.N.S and chatting,uploading videos,pictures makes one social?

Online risks facing young people include exposure to sexually explicit material as well as online victimization on the Internet. Exposure to sexually explicit Internet material is an important concern as there is evidence that such exposure is related to greater sexual uncertainty and more positive attitudes towards uncommitted sexual exploration among youth.[vii]

Celebrity Worship

“A celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to become known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized.”

(Fred Allen,American comedian)

Imitating the films stars, politicians, sporting celebrities ,youth icons, fashion icons, media icons and endless number of celebrities and icons for no purpose has become a common syndrome among youth and have been a long held hobby in our nation . The adoration of people is common and it has become a part of our youth life but it becomes a problem only when this celebrity worship crosses the limit to become fanaticism.

There is no doubt that celebrities, whether they are sports figures, politicians, actors/actresses, or anyone who have been set on a pedestal as an icon of pop culture. To understand why this cult is so deeply ingrained in the human consciousness might go back to the human need for entertainment. While most people are going to read the article on Brittany Spears or Paris Hilton and not on the thousands affected by Hurricane Katrina, they will sure go see a movie about the hurricane, starring, perhaps Will Smith, Brad Pitt, or Sharon Stone.[viii]

Parliamentary Democracy ?

Parliamentary democracy unlike those of Federalism or Presidentialism is not a deliberate institutional design.It evolved in Britain over several centuries.

It’s a way of life.

Parliamentary democracy is a life skill, a life style, a way of living, but how?

I just ask you friends how many of you are really bothered about absence of good toilets in your schools, if you have really thought about it or even submitted a protest regarding it to your principal or head master.

If you ever feel that you are not able to make a doubt to your teachers while they are lecturing for fear of being battered or do you think teachers will not accept while you are making doubts when they take lecture classes?

If you have ever looked after and be bothered of your friends when they fell down while attending school assembly and if you have taken them to the nearest hospital?

If you girls ever complained to your class teacher or tutor that some of your boy friends are kidding you on road regularly and if you ever felt ashamed of your teacher while they said no, you should not provoke ,because boys are different and girls are to bear the burden of fate because you are girls.

It’s a political order.

We are not nomads. Every morning we have some fixed places to go. For students its school, Court for the lawyers, field for farmers, etc.

Morning we have a place to go and evening we have a place to be back at.

Even for Robinson Crusoe of Daniel Defone had a well ordered life? Even though he was the only person in the Island of Trinidad, he had a structured social life.

But what are our political orders then?

By birth we are born to a political order,

We are born to a family system, we are born to a political system and a nationality, we are indebted to a plethora of rules and regulations, we never dare to move against society ,and even if some one goes against the order we are insisted to bring them back to normalcy.

It’s an institutional Practice

As a political practice, parliamentary democracy involves institutional practices. You might heard about Clock Tower of Big Ben[ix], the largest bell in the clock tower at the Houses of Parliament in London is amongst the most famous bells in the world, just as the tower itself is the most well-recognised aspect of one of the most iconic buildings on the planet. A symbol of Parliamentary democracy.

Youth and parliamentary democracy

The low numbers of young people voting in the Parliament elections in India , the decline in youth membership in such traditional institutions as political parties, trade unions and even youth organisations in India in comparison with last few decades are all signs of accumulating problems in the realm of youth and parliamentary practices. They are often interpreted as youth “disenfranchisement” (Adsett 2003)[x], “decline of social capital” (Putnam 2000)[xi], young people’s “de-politisation” (Vrcan 2002)[xii], “social vulnerability” (Tivadar & Mrvar 2002)[xiii], “marginalisation” (Svynarenko 2001)[xiv], and “anomie” (Adnanes 2000)[xv].

What is Youth Role in Parliamentary Politics

Voting process: Age Matters

“A bad government is a government elected by good people who do not vote”

(Khuswant Singh)

As far as all the elections fought in independent India, statistics reveal that youths constitute the major part (more than 57%) of the people who do not vote. as far as all the elections fought in independent India, statistics reveal that youths constitute the major part (more than 57%) of the people who do not vote. If the people who have education, mental ability to understand government policies, figure out the loopholes and capability of taking a more rational decision will not vote, then fate of any democracy can be forecasted easily. India is a nation where a majority of population is below 40 elects a majority of people above 60 to power[xvi]? Are we really satisfied with the way our country is being governed?

Young Leadership

At the time of independence, Gandhi called upon the youth to participate actively in the freedom movement. Young leaders likes Nehru came to his reckoning and led the movement.Our aim is not to produce another politican. But we want great leadership.The country desperately needs some young leaders who personify energy, enthusiasm, morality, and diligence. No doubt we have progressed a lot in the last 62 years but the development pace would have been completely different had some young torchbearers led this process of development.

Unfortunately we are not able to cultivate young leadership .It is because there can be two reasons for this deplorable scene of Indian politics.

One may be that the youth today are not interested in actively participating in the political field. They are content with what they are doing and how the country is being governed.They are largely being apoliticised and depoliticized. Merely celebrating valentine’s day, joining fans association, talking about film stars and cricketers, celebrity worship, etc dominate the young mind. In fact youth are misdirected and misled.

Second reason may be that young people are not given opportunities to prove themselves claiming that they are not equipped with experience to participate actively in the governance of the country. This reason seems to be more logical seeing the monopoly of old leaders in almost all the major political parties of the country. Old people should realize that proper development can take place only when they make way for younger people to take control of the activities.

Youth role is not mere contesting elections

As for the youth of our country, they can contribute in more ways than just contesting elections. Much can be done in areas like educating people, raising awareness about various social ills, and many other areas.

Youth roles in parliamentary practices can be therefore ,be summarized as three critical areas of youth activism -three basic forms of political participation[xvii]:

1. Involvement in institutional politics (elections, campaigns and membership);

“If you are not involved in politics ,politics will eventually get involved in you”

(V I Lenin)

Politics begins from human instinct.We are after all political animals.

2. Protest activities (demonstrations and new social movements);

Modern democratic societies are protest rich societies.

3. Civic engagement (associative life, community participation, voluntary work).

We are all social beings live in social bond and civic net work.


As a matter of conclusion to youth and democracy, it would be far better to remember Nehru who inspired by Gandhi’s call joined freedom movement, Martin Luther King who inspired to fight against racial discrimination , J P Movement of 1970s and recently Anna Hazare Movement against corruption which all have been participated by youth.

[iii] The Truth about India’s Young Population, and how it can be a boon or a bane?, http://www.sumit4all.com/society/the-truth-about-indias-young-population-and-how-it-can-be-a-boon-or-a-bane

[iv] United Nations Division for Social Policy and Development, http://www.un.org/events/youth2000/def2.htm, retrieved on 02/02/2012.

[vi] Quote posted by her mother Kathy Sierra:

http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2006/03/ultrafast_relea.html,cited in Boyd, Danah. (2007) “Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics

in Teenage Social Life.” MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Learning – Youth, Identity, and Digital

Media Volume (ed. David Buckingham). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

[vii] Youth Internet Use: Risks and Opportunities: Negative Aspects of Internet Use, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/704888_2

[viii] The cult of celebrity and its effects on society, http://www.helium.com/items/1238710-celebrites-cult.

[ix] bryanglass, Big Ben: The Great Clock and the Bells at the Palace of Westminster, http://britishscholar.org/publications/2011/04/01/big-ben-the-great-clock-and-the-bells-at-the-palace-of-westminster/

[x] Adsett, M. (2003), “Change in Political Era and Demographic Weight as Explanations of Youth ‘Disenfranchisement’ in Federal Elections in Canada, 1965- 2000,” Journal of Youth Studies, Vol. 6, No. 3, 247-264.

[xi] Putnam, Robert (2000), Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York: Simon and Schuster).

[xii] Vrcan, Srdjan (2002), “Youth: Politics, Sub-Politics and Anti-Politics. The Case of Croatia since the mid-eighties,” in: Tivadar, Blanka, and Polona Mrvar (eds.), Flying Over or Falling Through the Cracks? Young People in the Risk Society (Ljubljana: Office for Youth of the Republic of Slovenia).

[xiii] Tivadar, Blanka, and Polona Mrvar (2002), Flying Over or Falling Through the Cracks? Young People in the Risk Society (Ljubljana: Office for Youth of the Republic of Slovenia).

[xiv] Svynarenko, Arseniy (2001), “National, Political and Cultural Identities of Youth: Tendencies in Post-Soviet Ukraine,” in: Helve, Helena, and Claire Wallace (eds.), Youth, Citizenship and Empowerment (Aldershot: Ashgate).

[xv] Adnanes, Marian (2000), “Social Upheavals, Anomie and Coping Bulgarian Youth in the Nineties,” in: Petar-Emil Mitev (ed.), Balkan Youth and Perception of the Other (Sofia: LIK).

[xvi] Role of Youth In Indian Politics,The Views Paper, http://theviewspaper.net/role-of-youth-in-indian-politics/,retrieved on 02/02/2012.

[xvii] Chisholm, Lynn, and Siyka Kovacheva (2002), Exploring the European Youth Mosaic. The Social Situation of Young People in Europe (Strasbourg: Council of Europe).

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