India is now the country with the largest youth demographic in the world. Young people are at once key to preventing social division – a necessity in today’s India – and also in developing and implementing policies which effectively counter the growth of violent extremism.
Their meaningful participation improves the relevance, effectiveness and impact of peace and security initiatives.
This begs the questions, what is India’s strategy on youth engagement? Does it wish to harness its youth for peace-building purposes?
I filed a Right to Information (RTI) Application with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to seek answers, focusing specifically on the United Nations Security Council (UNSCR) Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace, and Security (YPS).
This resolution emphasises the inclusion of young people in decision-making processes related to peace and security. Further it also acknowledges the positive contributions of youth in preventing conflict, promoting social cohesion, and countering violent extremism.
The RTI queries related to the draft National Youth Policy (NYP), 2021, demanded copies of “comments/views/suggestions” received from all stakeholders, a list of actions taken by the ministry to integrate said comments, and demanded any documents held by the ministry, which contained the “current status” of the Draft NYP 2021.
The ministry quoted RTI Act Section 8(1)(i) claiming that the policy is still under deliberation, therefore information could not be provided.
Thus the current status of the draft NYP 2021 can be considered as “under deliberation.”
Meanwhile, the NYAC as a body was created to empower young people’s voices and put them in positions of leadership and decision making, so that they may contribute towards nation building by advising the government on youth related matters. NYAC was also supposed to play an active role in the finalisation of a plan of action for the implementation of the National Youth Policy, 2014.
Scrutinising documents provided by the Public Information Officer, NYAC is supposed to be allocated a budget of Rs 1 crore per year. Further the council has a term of 3 years and is supposed to meet every quarter.
As per the response of the ministry the fact that the NYAC has not convened a single meeting since its formulation exemplifies the negligence of the government.
To add injury to insult, there is no mention of the existence of the NYAC in the most recently available annual report of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports nor is there any line item in the past three budgets of the ministry which allocates funds for such a council.
It is not clear if the stagnation of the draft NYP 2021 is due to the non-functioning of the NYAC.
The ministry’s response of “nil” to queries regarding consultations with youth or youth-led organisations on the Youth, Peace and Security agenda along with no allocated budget for the same, coupled with the inactive NYAC and evasive response towards Draft NYP 2021, highlight that the government has little interest in engaging youth leaders within the working of the government.
The lack of meaningful engagement with young people breeds disillusionment amongst the youth, making them feel unheard, unvalued and in many cases more susceptible to extremist ideologies.
Absence of consultations and stakeholder engagement hampers the development of comprehensive policies that address diverse youth needs and aspirations.
The government must recognise the urgency of actively engaging with young people, heeding recommendations, and promoting meaningful participation in decision-making processes.
Shameer Rishad is the Convenor of the Javed Abidi Foundation (JAF). He can be reached on Twitter @RishadShameer.
Illustration: Pariplab Chakraborty