Archive for October 2015

INDIAN YOUTH AND THEIR SOCIAL ISSUES

October 7, 2015, 10:11 am

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Dr.Athiqul H. Laskar

Hindus and Muslims can be neighbors and live happily for years together.  However if a boy from the Muslim family wants to marry a girl from the neighboring Hindu family, all hell breaks loose and swords are drawn out.  Many Indians still follow the age-old practice of matching horoscopes of the prospective bride and the groom before finalizing the marriage.  This superstitious belief shockingly gives more importance to a piece of paper based on the birth time and place of an individual rather than on his character and capabilities.  Well-educated people from well-to-do families resort to such mindless traditions in their personal lives.  Consider the example of Ritu, a teacher at a private B.ed college who allegedly hanged herself when her marriage with Siddharth Sarpal (son of Pradeep kumar Sarpal-Inspector General of Police-law and order) was opposed by the IG on the grounds that their horoscopes did not match.  The girl and the boy had known each other for many years and had studied together. (Times of India -Sourced from PTI, 2010).  Apparently disillusioned with love, the girl took such an extreme step. Instances like these make us think as to what difference has education made in the lives of such people?

If we skim through matrimonial ads of newspapers we’ll find that there are separate sections for each religion, caste and sub-caste.  The government of India has reservations in place everywhere for the scheduled castes, tribes and the backward communities.  However, the rich from the scheduled castes take advantage of such schemes and become richer.  The student from the open category with 80 % might not get even a paid admission in a medical college but a scheduled caste student with a 50% score, will get a paid seat with very little effort, only on the basis of his caste.  Economically these students might have got the same advantages; same school and coaching classes, the same educational material etc.  Such reverse discrimination works against merit, is very harmful to the psyche of the youth and might fill them with alienation and angst towards the government.  Reservations should be meant only for the economically backward.  Caste becomes a major hindrance when it comes to marriages.  Even today, arranged marriage is a social norm and any tendency to deviate from this norm is dealt with severely by many families.  Even in supposedly modern, urban areas, parents try to dissuade children from marrying outside their caste.  We often hear newspaper reports of honor killing by family members where the girl and the boy are killed by their own relatives for marrying outside their caste.  The freedom to choose one’s life partner is almost nil in India and is restricted only to an educated few.  The Asha Saini case, one of the most recent examples of so-called honour killing, happened in Delhi, the capital of India and not in some remote village.  Asha’s father Suraj Kumar Saini and her uncle Om Prakash, who allegedly killed Asha and her boyfriend, have no regrets.  Yogesh was a cab driver and belonged to a different caste (Anand, 2010).  A 23 yr old journalist, Nirupama Pathak, who was a Brahmin by caste, was allegedly killed by her mother for wanting to marry a colleague from a different caste (Kayastha). (NDTV.com, 2010)  The concept of ‘Gotra’ in Hindus is an ancient one.  It means that people belonging to the same ‘Gotra’ or sub-caste are from the same ancestral lineage and should not marry amongst each other as they are equal to siblings.  However, with population growth and mingling of different ‘Gotras’ over time this concept is rendered utterly meaningless.  Recently, the Khap Panchayats or the local village caste panchayats consisting of a few judges who are not even properly educated created a furore by asking the High court to put a ban on same gotra marriages.  The High Court took a progressive step by dismissing this petition.  Even the Supreme Court dismissed a PIL regarding the same. Politicians fear that opposing such Khap Panchayats could result in a loss of their vote-banks and hence do not take a stance.  The Haryana CM Mr. Bhupinder Singh Hooda even went ahead and supported the Khap Panchayats as legitimate informal organizations comparing them with NGOs.  The youth in India have very little to expect from such superstitious organizations that are hell-bent on establishing their terror and such policy-makers who can think about nothing but their power and pelf.

Dowry is a social menace.  According to an article in Time magazine, deaths in India related to dowry demands have increased 15-fold since the mid-1980s from 400 a year to around 5,800 a year by the middle of the 1990s. (Hitchcock, 2001).  In India, for example, more than 5,000 brides die annually because their dowries are considered insufficient, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). A newly-wed bride is viewed as a means to enrich the family.  The bride’s family is harassed to pay up or witness their daughter being harassed.  Even well-educated men and their families demand hefty dowries.  In fact the more educated the boy is, the more precious he is in the marriage market.  The root of this issue lies in the mentality that views women as commodities.  This is why so many girl children are killed every year.  They view girls as burdens who will take away their earnings in the form of dowry.  Thus, many women in India face discrimination before marriage and harassment after marriage.  When well-educated high-class people are involved in dowry cases they normally have the capacity to bribe the police and get away with it.  The police usually turn a blind eye to cases of dowry death, citing lack of evidence, especially when politicians or bureaucrats are involved.  Youth has an important role in putting an end to this menace.  Recently, Rani, a bride-to be, performed a sting operation on a prospective groom’s family demanding dowry and released their videos in the media.  The police arrested Nikhilesh Pathak, the groom and his father for perpetuating this crime.  Rani’s family has since then been inundated with calls for marriage proposals by men who admired her courage.  So all hope is not lost.  However Nikhilesh Pathak who is out on bail is shameless enough to threaten legal action against Rani and her family (Indiatoday.com, 2010).  Many among today’s youth are responsible and sensible enough to support the courage of women like Rani.  However, a few like Mr. Pathak, still sell themselves.  The Indian youth both men and women today need to take a sensible stance against dowry.  Any amount of legislation cannot remedy a social evil that is deeply entrenched in the mindset of the society.  Rani was lucky to have been educated enough to understand that technology can help her.  Her courage was born out of her education.  A majority of women however steer clear of such courageous deeds due to fear of social ostracism.

Education, if not the solution is at least a key to a solution.  The young as well as the elders need to understand that human relationships are far more important than caste-marks and love is the last and only hope for mankind. (athiqul16@yahoo.co.in)

 

Underdevelopment and Identity Crisis of emerging youth

October 7, 2015, 10:08 am

Underdevelopment and Identity Crisis of emerging youth

CIMG5062Dr.Athiqul H. Laskar

“In the Human Development Index (HDI), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Statistical Update 2008 ranks India at 132 out of the 179 countries. At 116 out of the 157, India also ranks poorly in the Gender Development Index. While India falls under the “Medium Human Development” category, all the developed countries are bracketed under the “High Human Development” category. HDI is based on purchasing power parity, life expectancy at birth, and education levels.” (IBN Live, 2009).  Basic nutrition for children is still at a remarkably low level.  According to the UNICEF surveys of 2003-2008, about 48 % of children under the age of five are moderately or severely underweight.    No one knows how many poor children might be dying every day on the streets of ‘Modern India’ due to hunger and professional hazards like begging near the signals.  In India, women are generally treated as inferior to men.  This may not be the case amongst urban educated population.  It is shocking to note that India is the only country among the major nations of the world where the ratio of women to men is consistently low.  A girl child however takes away dowry from her parents’ house when she gets married.  Societal pressures force parents of girls to give dowry and thus the birth of a girl child is considered a misfortune.  The Christian Medical Association of India conducted a case study among children between the age groups 0-6 years, in certain government and the private hospitals in New Delhi. (TOI, 2005)  They concluded that when the first male child is born there is no discrimination against the next child irrespective of its gender.  However, when the first child is a girl, the second female birth is discriminated against for want of a male child.  According to the WHO statistics of 2002, in India, the probability of children dying under the age of 5 was 87 per thousand for male children and 95 per thousand for female children.  These stark realities are shameful on the part of a country claiming its place in the soon-to-be ‘First World’ powers. Education is one of the basic necessities of civilized human life.  If we want to see ourselves anywhere equal to the developed countries, we must ensure that the masses have access to quality education.  India boasts of a breath-takingly fast developing economy.  On the 1st of April 2010, the Indian Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh launched a programme to extend schooling to about 10 million children who are outside the education system.  He has pledged not to let financial constraints get in the way of its implementation which is estimated to cost around $38 billion. (Alzajeera.net, 2010).  Initiatives like these will go a long way in promoting youth development.

The UN General Assembly, on 18th December 2009, adopted a resolution proclaiming the year commencing on 12th August 2010 as the International Year of Youth, with the theme “Dialogue and Mutual Understanding”.  The year will coincide with the 25th anniversary of the first International Youth Year in 1985 on the theme “Participation, Development and peace”. (WHO, 2010).  It is heartening to see that the United Nations Organization is keen on promoting youth development.  When wide-spread poverty, underdevelopment and unemployment breaks the backbone of an economy, the worst affected are the youth of a country.  Youth is a phase of energy, vitality and vigour in one’s life.  It’s a phase of dreaming, achieving, succeeding and celebrating.  If the young in any country are gainfully employed they can satisfy the needs of their family.  Happy families in turn, make a happy nation.  However, when a large chunk of them are denied the opportunity of skill development, or job-satisfaction, the result is large-scale dissatisfaction and frustration.  Abraham Maslow in his theory of self-actualization clearly stated the importance of basic needs first and then the higher needs of education and self-actualization.  However poverty stops the youth from reaching out to the higher interests of life.  They either become too complacent and content try to survive as long as possible by adjusting themselves to their low motivational environment.  However, many a times when the frustration levels cross certain limits, self-destructive behavior is resorted to.  Researchers in New Zealand conducted a study to find out the relation between unemployment and suicides.  With a database of over two million people from the 1991 Census, they found that “men and women aged 25 to 44 years, and men aged 45 to 64 who were unemployed were two to three times as likely to commit suicide as their employed peers.” (BBC NEWS, 2003). Self-destructive behavior also includes substance abuse for e.g. alcohol addiction, drug abuse etc.  When youngsters don’t have the means to pay for the drugs, they resort to crime like stealing, and violence.  It should be a red alert time for the government if the youth of the country resort to fatalistic tendencies like drug abuse and suicide.  Many youngsters, alienated due to poverty and unemployment feel the heat of injustice and may join terrorist or naxalite outfits.  They feel they can have their revenge this way and do not fear death because they anyways do not see any point in living in poverty.  They may view their terrorist activities as revolutionary ones and it is easy for terrorist groups with vested interests to woo such impoverished youth and brainwash them against the system.  They usually catch them young and fill their impressionable minds with the ideology of hatred.  Thus, we see that, poverty and unemployment are majorly responsible for the identity crisis faced by the youth.  Their going astray is actually a struggle for attaining identity albeit in a wrong direction.

Let us compare our situation with that of America.  According to a research conducted in 2004 by Robert Rector and Dr. Kirk Johnson, poverty in the Unites States of America has different dimensions when compared to other developing nations.  When we talk about poverty in Asian, African and other developing worlds, we picture hungry, half-clothed people out on the streets.  However, when we analyze the situation of the people classified as “poor” in America, we don’t find them matching these criteria.  “46% of the “American Poor and underdevelpment” actually own their homes and the average home size is a three bedroom house with one and a half baths, a garage and a porch or a patio”   It is understood that the housing conditions for the “poor” people in America are actually better than that compared to the world.   “According to the USDA, some 6.9 million Americans or 2.4 percent of the population were hungry at least once during 2002.”  Thus, hunger is a short term and episodic concept among the “American poor”.  What is judged as poverty in the U.S. is actually comfortable living by Indian standards.  However last year global economic melt-down hasn’t spared U.S.  Hunger and poverty statistics have gone up in the United States of America as well.  However, the government has certain measures to keep hunger in check.  For e.g. Charity initiatives like the soup kitchens and ‘Feeding America’- It is basically a food bank that provides food to more than 37 million low-income people facing hunger in America, including 14 million children and 3 million seniors. (Feeding America, 2010).  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics placed the unemployment rate of the U.S. at 9.5 for the year 2010.  According to Wikipedia.com, this was unemployment rate in India in 2009.  So India and the U.S. are not far from each other as far as unemployment is concerned.  However, what distinguishes the American situation form ours is the quick implementation of laws.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed in February 2009 with an aim of saving or creating 1.2 to 2.8 million jobs and according to their estimates they intended to save or create 3.7 million jobs by September 2010.  The legislation not only helped people keep their jobs but also the unemployed workers were provided basic health care to ensure minimum physical and psychological damages due to unemployment.  The Obama Government with its emphasis on less dependence on outsourcing is surely headed in the right direction and will succeed in creating better future for American youths in the future.

 

Issues of Youth-Parent Relationship

October 7, 2015, 10:01 am

Issues of Youth-Parent Relationship

 Dr.Athiqul H. Laskar

With more than 60% of India under the age of 30, this country has a young population that makes way for an interesting study of how the Indian youth relates to ideologies of their older generation. It is the purpose of this study not only to examine where the youth stand today, as compared to their yesteryears’ counterparts, but also to assess how dynamics of this changing world has altered their relationship with their parents/elders. Before I make any attempt to offer my perspective on the above issue, I would like to clarify that this article cannot encapsulate the crux of an entire generation absolutely precisely. However, it is certainly within the scope to offer a balanced representation of a fairly large cross-section of today’s youth, be it in India or abroad.

More often than not, there are sociological perspectives that apply sweeping adjectives, such as ‘rebellious’, ‘non-conformist’, ‘apathetic’, ‘morally degraded’, ‘brash’, ‘disrespectful towards elders’, to today’s youth; in fact, there are hundreds of similar tags that are attached to the youth. It is undoubtedly true that a lot has changed in our world, in so far as how the current generation relates to its socio-cultural environment. For instance, while the older generation were very rooted to the family unit, and turned to their elders for advice when it was time to take important life-altering decisions, the youth are charged with a somewhat ‘I-know-what-I-want-from-my-life’ kind of attitude. Moreover, for today’s youth, their peers’ opinion matters much more to them than that of their parents. In such a scenario, parents find it hard to turn a blind eye to what they feel might be a ‘dangerous path’ being treaded by their children. It is natural for parents to get anxious over their children’s welfare; they want to protect their children from any pitfalls that the latter might encounter along the way. After all, they are convinced (and rightly so) that no amount of knowledge can substitute their wisdom, which has stemmed from age and experience. In their unwillingness to accept their children’s new-found freedom, parents become skeptical of the company that the youngster is keeping, and their sense of judgment, behaving like a moral police most of the time. The ‘good old days in which we grew up’ is a common sentiment amongst the elderly. Needless to say, children do not take too kindly to what they consider ‘undue interference’ from their parents, and land up retaliating. This ultimately leads to the ‘I-know-what-I-am-doing’ refrain. All this boils down to nothing but a never-ending tussle between youngsters and their parents.

The above scenario is typical of the early 1990s. This was the time when, as a result of globalization, there was a sudden change in social values. Opening up of the economy led to an increased access not just to foreign products, but also to foreign culture and values. This unprecedented ‘cultural diffusion’ led our youth to a somewhat confused state of mind, in terms of where their ambitions lay. All of a sudden, bizarre things like getting one’s navel or temples pierced, and studding it with rings of all shapes and sizes, became ‘cool’. To add to this, the youth of this period was overawed by the sudden spurt in spending power, leading to rise in consumerism.

What should the parents have done 2 decades ago?  Firstly, they should have denied the children easy access to all luxuries. This way, the latter would have respected the privileges they had, besides acknowledging their father’s hard work that had gone into earning all that wealth. A good step in this direction could have been for the parents to take their children around the less privileged localities, maybe even made them do some community service, to reinforce how fortunate they were to have all that they did, sensitizing them towards the plight of the less fortunate lot of people in this world.

Moving further, now that we have entered the new millennium, the picture of today’s youth is not all that dark and gloomy any more. In the present times, it would be unfair to perpetuate stereotypes, and tag the youth as those belonging to the ear-nose-navel pierced generation of youngsters, who know nothing better than how to blindly ape their western counterparts.  No doubt, there are still significant differences in the perspectives of today’s youth vis-a-viz their parents, but this is unavoidable.

A decade ago, globalization largely led to blind aping of the West; today it means that the youth have become a near-perfect blend of the East and the West; while, on one hand, they seem all too ready to embrace the modernization of the western world, on the other hand, they are also not embarrassed to adopt traditional values, such as participating in most of the family’s religious functions, greeting their elders in a traditional way, touching their feet, etc. With this dual cultural passport, today’s youth are more mature, adaptable and tolerant of those who may be different from them.

This is not to say that there are absolutely no deviations between the youth’s perspectives and that of their parents; expecting such absolute harmony is expecting a little too much. There is certainly a reasonable amount of tussle between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’’ like the Swedish saying that says, “If the Stone Age children had obeyed their parents we would still be living in the Stone Age”. But the scene is a lot better than it was some time back.

Parents of today’s youth (assuming that the term ‘youth’ includes all those in the 15-30 age group) were born sometime between 1950 and 1970. They have tasted much more turbulent times with their older generations. As a result, they have become more tolerant towards their children than their own parents were, decades ago. They are quick to understand that communication gap with their children will yield nothing more than emotional issues for the latter.

Therefore, today’s parents make all possible efforts to make communication more fearless and democratic than they themselves had the luxury of. They realize that the erstwhile “You-must-do-this-because-I-say-so” approach does no go well with today’s youth. Such efforts on the parents’ part engender trust amongst the youth, who find it easier to confide in their parents, whenever the need arises.

Intrinsic American culture endorses that their youth be weaned away from parents’ decision-making influence latest by the age of 18 years, whereas Indian social conditioning is rather different. In this regard, I with 38 years of living and working in America wish to highlight one point of difference between the Indian youth and my American counterparts. While the former seek this independence, albeit still going back to their parents every now and then, it is not very common to see the latter have an equivalent sense of cohesion towards the basic family unit, once they have been weaned away. An Indian teenager’s attempt to ‘break free’ is looked down upon as ‘callousness’, ‘irresponsible attitude’ and ‘insensitivity towards aging parents’ needs’. In this context, simply visiting parents on weekends or holidays is not enough; children (particularly male) are expected to keep their identity firmly entwined with that of their families and communities. It is interesting to note that here, ‘family’ constitutes not just the immediate family (parents and siblings) but, in a lot of cases, the wider family consisting of uncles and aunts as well as their respective families also. Perhaps, this acts as a cementing force in case of the Indian youth.

So, in a nutshell, I can safely arrive at a fair conclusion (even if it is not unanimous) that the current generation is not so much in jeopardy, as feared by some. This is a generation that is liberated and confident, stretching their minds to discover new worlds and new horizons. The best part is that an encouragingly large part of them is fortunate enough to receive parental support, which is a welcome change from the past.