Milega ilm-e-jihalat-numa se kya un ko nikal ke madrason aur universitiyon se ye bad-nasib na ghar ke na ghat ke honge main puchhta hoon ye taalim hai ki makkaari karodon zindagiyon se ye be-panah dagha…
(What can possibly the young gain from the useless knowledge dished out by madrasas and universities? Dazed and confused they appear, these wretched souls Is this education or pure scam, I wonder. What treachery with countless lives!)
Firaq Gorakhpuri, the Urdu poet, penned these lines almost four decades ago, but they have a hauntingly contemporary ring.
India’s youth has a lot to be angry about. From joblessness to hunger to discrimination, their frustration is being tested every day. But the government seems to turn a deaf year towards these travails. What’s worse is the fake sympathy and farcical terms like pakodanomics being used as a curtain for politicians to hide their failures.
Frustration with the government and the incapability to navigate a corrupt system has created a generation of angry young men.
During his 2014 election campaign, PM Modi-led BJP government had promised to create 20 million new jobs for the youth every year. This means approximately1 billion jobs in the country by the end of 2018. But now, at the end of their 5-year term, this promise has become BJP’s biggest roadblock in winning 2019 elections.
Why? Because in the past 5 years, the BJP has managed to create only 6 lakh new jobs, a huge let down from 2014. In fact, over the years the job market in India has only worsened. Unemployment rate has touched 6% from 4% in 2014. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) Economic Survey of India, over 30% of India’s youth (about 120 million) is unemployed. In Gujarat alone, 6 million youth are jobless.
And these stats are even more disheartening when you realise that India’s economy is actually in an upward trend. It’s obviously shocking how economic and manufacturing growth in the country hasn’t translated to more jobs in the market. No wonder the youth is so disappointed and agitated with the government. For them, it’s like adding insult to injury. And this has led to multiple protests over the years. For eg. In 2018, 10,000 members of Democratic Youth Federation of India marched to the parliament chanting slogans “Where is my job”.
But is the government alone to blame for this job situation? Traditional sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, and forestry—which employ over 38% of Indian youth—are in a grave crisis today. Even the manufacturing sector advanced by only 1.8% in January 2018 as compared to 7.6% the same time last year. This industrial slowdown, along with demonetization, led to the shut of several small companies, especially in rural areas. A survey conducted by the All India Trade Union Congress found that the closure of these companies made over 11 million people jobless in 2017 alone. And this is just the economic front. We can’t forget the innumerable times that political problems in India have directly affected youth career. The biggest example ➜ AFSPA and militancy in Kashmir, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Mizoram. The dysfunctional job markets in these states are a direct result of repeated military demonstrations, curfews, and blasts.
With so much going on in the country, it’s no surprise that the youth feels a loss. Their frustration is insurmountable!
Reservation for the rich
Reservation demands are galore and unemployment is the reason today. In the last few years, we’ve seen different sects and communities demanding quota even though they don’t fit into the SC/ST/OBC category. This is because these categories receive 50% of the government jobs without merit while those without a quota have to face tough competition and repeated rejections. This not only affects the confidence of the youth, but the prolonged unemployment also pushes them towards suicide.
As a result, the general category youth has started seeing reservation as the solution to their joblessness. This is why, when in 2018, the government announced 90,000 PSU jobs, the Marathas, Jats, and Patels (who aren’t technically backward) immediately took out rallies asking the government for quota.
Anti-reservation movements today are simply movements demanding more reservation for upper castes, instead of fighting for abolishing such provisions.
And this is no surprise! The youth that once fought against aarakshan (reservation system) is now desperate to lean on it. It’s probably because they’re tired of losing out great opportunities to less deserving candidates. But more importantly, because the issue of reservation is just so deep-rooted and multi-layered. It starts from primary school all the way to the post-graduate level; our education system churning out low merit people who then get employed in companies with the crutch of the same quota.
But this problem isn’t going away soon. Because we all know that in India reservation is a political tool. Parties themselves use it as a crush to win elections. Take for example, UP’s politics. Both SP (Akhilesh Yadav) and BSP (Mayawati) have been reigning in the state because of the minority support – Muslims and Dalits. In Haryana, CM Manohar Lal Khattar came to power on the promise of introducing Jat quota. In 2017, the Congress promised Patidar quota in Gujarat and Yogi Adityanath announced an MBC quota in UP to win elections. Even the Modi government announced a 10% reservation for upper castes in January 2019.
When the whole concept of politics is so well-built on the grounds of reservation, it’s no wonder the youth is also yearning to get their names on this diverse quota list.
With so much going on in the country – politically and religiously – the youth feels more and more detached from the system. We’re at a point where parties’ religious affiliations determine vote banks. Politicians are ready to talk about the Ram Temple and Sabarimala, but little is spoken about the youth. For example, an interesting survey by Reuters found that in the last 5 years, politicians addressed four times as many religious issues (like Sabarimala, Beef ban, Ayodhya) than youth ones (like unemployment)
And this has only made the youth angrier. India’s youth has been rattled with reservation, gender, and caste inequality for decades. But government apathy has become ridiculous in the past years. For example, in 2013, West Bengal CM, Mamata Banerjee, when speaking about the Nirbhaya rape case said, “Rape cases are on the rise in the country because men and women interact with each other freely now.” Or when Haryana’s MLA Dharamvir Goyat claimed, “90% of all rape cases are consensual.” Or when the Delhi government blamed women’s clothing for rape culture instead of pushing for more local security.
Above all, politicians have expressed the most indifference towards youth unemployment and inflation. Remember PM Modi’s pakodanomics jab? When he tried to play down official unemployment figures by including pakoda sellers in the calculations. And when asked about malnutrition in Gujarat, he refuted it by saying that malnutrition is the result of figure-conscious girls’ dieting habits.
But government apathy is not just restricted to such ridiculous statements. It’s the lack of efforts too to tackle such issues. On the one hand, political groups like the RSS proactively organized large protests against the SC’s Sabarimala verdict, but on the other, they did very little to protect Kashmiri students from being beaten up after the Pulwama attack. The youth are being lynched and bullied on streets based on religion or their views on social media (Shaheen Dhada’s arrest for her Facebook post after Bal Thackeray’s death). The whole environment of religious politics in the nation has made the liberal youth more and more isolated from the system. And no amount of protests or dharnas seems to be able to change this. Besides, who’s going to make the change?
Youth representation in the parliament is lowest in India compared to the rest of the world. The average age of MPs in the parliament is above 50 with only 12 out of 543 MPs under 30 years.