How socially responsible are our youth?

May 7, 2015, 2:33 am

“Today’s youth are the leaders of tomorrow” – is an oft-repeated sentiment that flashes across our minds whenever a discussion hovers around ‘Generation Y’. Does this generation of the Millennial really have what it takes to shoulder such meaningful responsibility?
Before I begin yet another thread of this seemingly never-ending debate, I wish to clarify that it is not my intention to pass an absolute judgment, be it in favor of, or against, an issue under scrutiny. Let us look at such open-ended discussions with utmost objectivity, giving credit where due.
It is true that we often hear stories of youngsters spending their life in wasteful pursuits, such as indulging in narcotics, drugs, and even sexual abuse. The high incidence of deadly diseases like HIVAIDs testifies this. Going a step ahead, youth violence and caste-related crimes, such as honor killings, are on an unprecedented rise. A few years back, I was shocked to hear the news of an ‘educated criminal’, an alumnus of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, (IIT), who had taken to the business of drug trafficking, to earn quick and easy money. This is a sign of declining mental and emotional health.
It is, undoubtedly, heart-rending to hear such stories about the youth. However, would it be fair to pass the all-sweeping verdict that the morals of today’s youth have decayed to the extent of being in some deep irretrievable abyss? Observing youth trends around me, I am rather optimistic. I strongly feel that today’s Gen-Y is not just more informed, but also more socially responsive, as compared to those of Gen-X.
My optimism stems from the hoards of young people I see around me, who are socially aware and committed towards making a difference in the community they live in. An encouragingly large part of the current generation takes pride in making efforts towards embalming our planet’s future. They have risen above boundaries of nationality, and are striving for environmental protection. There are young professionals who spearhead initiatives, such as ‘No plastics’, ‘Say NO to polybags’ drives, within their home and office space. These are the young people for whom the mantra is not just about being ‘cool’, but about becoming ‘eco-cool’. Not just the urban youth but also those from semi-rural or rural areas are equally well-informed and sensitive to the needs of our world. We have a growing breed of environmentally-conscious agriculturists, who play an assertive role in saving the planet for future generations. After all, is this not responsible behavior?
The scenario is equally encouraging even from the societal perspective. A few weeks ago, I was pleasantly to read about “The Bharat Uday Mission”, an innovative social service initiative that finds its roots in IIT Delhi. The idea behind this initiative is to form a political party, led by some of our youngsters, that promises us not only an economically developed India, but also a spiritually enlightened nation. It speaks volumes about the community spirit of today’s youth. To what extent this noble mission actually sees the light of the day is a different aspect, but the very fact that the thought of making such a difference has germinated in young minds of India is, in itself, a commendable sentiment. Equally commendable is another fact that these young IITians are the very cream of the country’s student population – the most employable amongst the country’s youth. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that they may have taken to the route of community service for want of job prospects.
Another streak of responsible behavior I have seen in that more and more young people are coming ahead to vote, voicing their concerns about the government that deserves to run our Democracy. In this context, I am reminded of one of my neighbor’s son in Gawahati, a professional in a renowned consultancy firm. Despite demands of a challenging full-time career, he was actively involved in a Mumbai-based Church Youth group that champions for social causes across the city. Post-November 2008, when Mumbai was shaken by one of the worst terrorist attacks in the history of India, his Youth Group (consisting of other youngsters, all of whom are equally busy with their professional obligations) got together, and committed themselves to engendering positive change amongst the youth voters as regards the efficacy of our democratically-elected political leaders. This small group of youngsters managed a huge turnaround, at least within their constituency of Bandra, Mumbai, Defence colony, New Delhi, Gawahati, Assam, where the voter turnaround increased by almost 5%. By investing their time and efforts in shaking the youth out of their complacency and indifference towards election times, these youngsters have displayed nothing but responsible behavior. All the above clearly shows that the immense reserves of energy that our youth has, is being channelized in the right direction.
If there are influences, such as the negative impact of globalization and incessant westernization, plaguing young minds, there are numerous positive influences as well, which offset the former. The community-related responsiveness we see in young minds today may be largely attributed to the guidance of informed parents as well as to our rapidly-evolving education system. Professional institutes like B-schools, encourage community service amidst their educational culture, making the concept of “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR) an integral part of their curricula. This was unheard of earlier, when education primarily meant imparting/absorbing bookish knowledge. While, earlier, businesses were basically concerned with the “profit motive” only, bottom-line profits are not the only yardstick to measure business success. Today, the CSR sentiment has become a necessity for their sustainability.
Although western influences are seeping into Indian soil, young Indian minds are absorbing not just western fashion trends but also the spirit of self-dependence. A sure sign of this self-dependence can be seen in college-going youngsters. They are becoming less dependent on their parents, in so far as funding their own education is concerned, even if this means taking education loans or working part-time. To this end, they are more open to exploring new and hitherto untried opportunities. Hence, there are more and more youth who are treading the path of Entrepreneurship, which, in turn, creates employment opportunities and generates wealth.
Talking of parental influence, they too make it a point to introduce their children to the concept of volunteering at an early age. The spirit of ‘giving’, and that of being able to make a difference in others’ lives, is inculcated by allowing the children to interact with the less privileged humans. Recently, I was impressed with my neighbor’s parenting skills in Shillong, when I learnt that, just a day before her daughter’s 10th birthday; she had taken the little girl to donate her old clothes, toys and other knick-knacks at a nearby missionary orphanage. A significant dividend that comes from such volunteering is that youngsters get a sense of self-esteem; that which comes from being a positive force in the society that has given them so much. In this world fraught with wars and communal strife, such a mindset is the need of the hour.
With the above debate, I feel that it would be a rational judgment not to deride the youth as ‘monsters’ because of sporadic episodes. If, in the infamous ‘Manu Sharma-Jessica Lall case’, it was a youth who is chastised for having wronged a woman, again it is the youth that had, so ardently, stood against the crime. Such facts encourage me to believe that today’s youth have the skills to navigate their lives out of rough waters.

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