Youth Participation in Indian Democracy

Gargi Singh*

Participation in the democratic life of any community is about more than voting or standing for election, although these are important elements, young people are motivated and interested in political issues in our societies. Meaningful democracy requires the meaningful participation of youth. Young people have much to offer societies – from innovation to creativity to new thinking. Their participation in democracy promotes active citizenship strengthens social responsibility and can enhance democratic processes and institutions. And today’s young citizens are tomorrow’s readers and decision-makers. Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation.  Empowered and sagacious and not being mendacious they can be key agents for development and peace.

The 122nd convention of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, an international organization of national parliaments, took place in Bangkok, Thailand in 2010. During this assembly, the delegates approved a notable resolution called “Youth Participation in Democracy.” This resolution emphasized the need to involve young people in the political process by giving them opportunities to express their views and actively engage in democratic activities. For example, taking actions to engage youth with democracy can help in ensuring better political decisions and actions – as young people are better political decisions and actions – as young people are best placed to express experiences unique to them. It strengthens understanding and action for democracy and human rights. It empowers and protects young people by realizing the fundamental democratic rights of participation. It promotes the well-being of young people and the development of their skills and experience. It helps in gauging a positive impact on eradicating poverty and hunger and achieving international development goals.  It promotes peace, manages conflict and fosters transition to democracy – as young people can help build bridges across communities and contribute to more just and peaceful societies.

In the intricate mosaic of Indian democracy, a crucial element that demands recognition is the active involvement of the nation’s youth. The political tableau of India is undergoing a metamorphosis as a wave of dynamic and youthful leaders assume leadership roles in the world’s largest democracy. These emerging figures epitomize the aspirations, vitality and forward-looking vision of burgeoning India. Committed to navigating the nation towards a more promising future, the importance of youth participation in politics is a pivotal force driving transformative change in the fabric of Indian governance.

The rise of youth in Indian politics is not a mere trend but a necessity. The young, with their innovative ideas and fresh perspectives, hold the key to addressing the complex challenges that our country faces. It is high time we recognize their potential and encourage their active participation in shaping the destiny of our great nation.

The first and foremost reason why the youth are essential to Indian politics is their ability to connect with the aspirations of their generation. They are well acquainted with the problems of their generation and are also better at solving them. They understand the issues that matter most to young Indians: Education, Employment and a promising future. They bring a sense of urgency to these issues, pushing for more practical solutions, and at the same time, demanding accountability from the older political establishment.

The youth leaders are also more receptive to new technologies and communication methods, which are pivotal in a modern democracy. Social Media and Digital Platforms provide a direct channel of communication with the people, allowing for greater transparency and public engagement. This enabled youth leaders to connect with a broader audience, transcending traditional barriers.

The conventional political landscape, often marred by bureaucratic red tape, has been invigorated by the fresh perspective of the youth. They are more open to collaborations, coalition politics, and pragmatic policy formulation. This willingness to work across party lines is essential to address India’s multifaceted challenges effectively.

One of the most inspiring aspects of the youth’s foray into politics is their commitment to ethical and principled governance. This new generation of leaders is determined to fight corruption and bring about transparency in governance. Their commitment to public service is unquestionable, and they are keen on providing solutions, rather than engaging in divisive politics.

However, the journey of youth leaders is not without challenges. Young people aged between 15 and 25 make up a fifth of the world’s population – but have limited influence in national political institutions. Young people are often well placed to help tackle the challenges they face – including poverty, discrimination, barriers to education and limited employment opportunities to meaningful participate in democratic action.

Widespread global mobilization and action demonstrate that young people care deeply about social causes. But young people have a dwindling interest in formal political party membership – and are increasingly disenchanted with politicians and political parties.

And even though youth today are better placed than ever before to take part in and benefit from global development, many young people feel marginalized and excluded. The existing political ecosystem often resists change. Young leaders face various obstacles, from funding challenges to a lack of experience.

However, these challenges have not deterred the youth from their path. Their determination, fueled by a vision for a better India, remains unwavering. I firmly believe that India’s future lies in the hands of its youth leaders.

There is no no-size-fits-all solution. Challenges facing young people and their engagement with democracy vary widely from developing to developed countries. But to identify tailored solutions, political leaders must involve youth in democratic decision-making and build partnerships with them. Young people should be offered involvement in responsible, challenging actions that meet genuine needs. They should have the opportunity to participate in planning and decision-making. And they should know that their participation can make a difference. For political systems to be representative, all parts of society must be included.

Globally, youth participation and representation in institutional political processes and policy-making are relatively low. People under the age of 35 years are rarely found in parliaments, public administrations, and decision-making bodies such as committees on peace-building and constitution-building.

When there are obstacles to participating in formal, institutionalized political processes, young people can rapidly feel disempowered. Many tend to believe that their voices are not going to be heard or that they will not be taken seriously even if they are heard. In new and emerging democracies, the inclusion of young people in formal political processes is important from the start such as Electoral Management Bodies (EMB) and Electoral Stakeholders have a role to play in promoting young people’s participation in formal decision-making processes. For this role to be effective, it is necessary to understand the interconnected nature of the obstacles to participating in these processes that young people encounter.

These leaders serve as beacons of hope, lighting the way forward. They embody the spirit of “New India”, a dynamic forward thinking and inclusive nation that is ready to tackle its most pressing problems. It is our collective responsibility to support, nurture and empower these young political leaders.  

*BSNV PG College, Lucknow


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