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Monday, March 21, 2011

Social Responsibility and the Youth of India

Mera Bharat Mahaan… Yes, our nation can be considered great if we want to appreciate the fact that we are growing economically at 7-8% in spite of the prevalent corruption, nepotism and the anarchy amidst the largest democracy. India is also growing (read: galloping) on another front: the number of citizens. Amongst them, the largest share of the pie is made up of the youth (15-24 years), the Generation Next of our country. Just to put the future scenario in perspective, let’s mention that India has more children (374.5 million) below the age of 15 than China, Japan, Germany and USA combined!

The youth in urban India today is fashionable, fairly rich, mostly self employed and lucky. Juxtapose this with the fact that youth in rural India is underprivileged, poverty stricken and unaware. Rich youngsters in cities enjoy a life fraught with malls, multiplexes, pubs and binge nights. With high disposable incomes, not a care in the world and a substantially high buying power, the Great Indian Bazaar is their oyster. Flashy neon lights and decked mannequins peeping out of large store windows beckon them on. This change in lifestyle and aspirations has created a big market for companies which cater to the “just-employed” youth of India. Even BSL GenNext Fund’s advertising campaign once read “Benefit from the buying power of the Indian Youth.”

This happy, contended and successful present day youth is us. We have taken a lot from society as if it were our prerogative. Our parents earned enough to see us through big schools and even bigger colleges. Our pocket which becomes heavy with cash each month is partly to their credit too. Well anyway, now, that we are self sufficient, educated and aware, it’s time for us to give back what’s due on us. But, we, in India, have a small problem. Many of us are either selfish or too self involved to look around us and extend a helping hand. We might give the odd rupee to a beggar or donate money for flood or earthquake victims, buy a product because it’s ‘green’ and environment friendly (our ticket to the group of in-the-know-and-aware elite class), mull over the political scenario crippling the nation and curse the politicians, even suggest elaborate ways to change the scenario. But, how many of us really get down from the cozy mezzanines and get our hands dirty? The number, though present, is only slight. It’s high time every aware individual who is capable, rolled up his sleeves and made his presence count.

Still, the situation in India is not totally hopeless. We do have enlightened individuals who go out of their ways to help the poor and needy, educate poor kids and parents, sit in dharnas to foster political and social change, voice their opinions loud and clear against oppression and injustice. When we see such people take to the streets, don’t we feel goosebump on our skin and necks? We must realize how challenging, self-fulfilling, and responsible it would be to be in that number. Various NGOs that work out of big cities, fuelled by HNIs who wish to give back to society after taking so much (well that’s another story), are doing their bit to eradicate poverty and uplift the masses. According to the Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), India has around 1.2 million NGOs out of which 21.3% work for Community/Social Service, 20.4% for education and 6.6% for Health. That’s job well done but not good enough. According to a 2005 World Bank estimate, 42% of India (480 million people) falls below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day. The problem is that this number is ever increasing. Are we really armed to eradicate poverty and bring about social change?

The youth today needs to rise up. The so-called ‘future of India’ needs to realize that it is its duty to work towards a better, healthier and more prosperous India. We shall overcome… Let this be the war-cry of today’s young India. Let’s make everyone aware, leave no stone unturned, let prosperity flow out of every nook and cranny of this great nation. Let’s drive out poverty and helplessness, shambles and hopelessness, sorrow and tears. The only tears here should be our tears of joy marveling at our own prowess and success. Not everyone can be a Mother Teresa. We can start small. Here’s how: always close an open tap, switch off lights and fans when you leave a room, do not pollute, say no to plastic, be economical when spending on yourself, put aside a small amount for children who beg and sleep on an empty stomach, teach a few kids on alternate Sundays and miss out on the latest blockbuster for a change, offer your seat when an old lady is standing right next to you in a bus, vote in the next election! Give back to society. We have breathed a lot of free oxygen. But, this can be our time. The moment is here. We can make a difference and yes, together, we can… The war is far from won but we’ve not yet lost. There’s a long way to go. Let this be the place where everyone grows together and no one gets left behind.

All said and done, unless all of us join hands, this game can’t be won. It’s one thing to be in the game, one thing to win it. We need to make sure we strive to achieve the latter. Come together for a better tomorrow. Live, laugh, enjoy. But also live for others. Laugh along with smiles on faces which were once poverty stricken. Enjoy believing yourself to be tomorrow’s better India. Let’s be the ambassadors of change, a change towards glory and equality.

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