An interesting aspect of India's demographic profile is the large percentage of its youth population. As per the 2001 census, more than 41 per cent of India's population belonged to the 13 to 35 years age group. It is expected that by 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years, compared to 37 for China and 48 for Japan, and India would probably be the youngest nation in the world.
What are the implications of such a large young population? The recent generations are proud citizens of the fourth largest economy. For them, Gandhiji and the great sons and daughters of India are only great figures of history they have read about. They are born in a wired-up country, strongly technology-driven, more interconnected and networked, less divisive on grounds of caste, religion and language. They are more aspirational, more integrated with the rest of the world and are more demanding of better prospects of life and are not hesitant to slog hard to realise their ambitions. Their attitude towards religion, marriage, divorce, morals and social values are very different from those born in the 1960s and before. A new India is gradually asserting to claim its rightful place in the democratic process.
Since the youth are the biggest contributors to the national economy, it is but natural that the decision-making processes in the country are more tuned towards their requirements. The typical 'bijli-sadak-paani' manifestos of most governments would not excite them, for they would expect policies which guarantee better infrastructure, better quality of life and better environment. The government and the administration too, have to gear up to meet the new challenges coming from them. For example, our grievance redressal systems have to be more web-based and efficient as nobody has the time now to physically appear with a written grievance and make endless trips to a government office to get a solution. If the young netizen has to make any payment to the state coffers, it better be online or at least through a card - anytime, anywhere.
Recently, a police officer narrated an interesting incident. During the massive protests in the aftermath of the unfortunate rape-cum-death of the Delhi girl, the police arrested a protester and brought her to the police station. The girl must have tweeted this to her friends, and within no time thousands of young protesters gheraoed the police station demanding her release. Clearly unnerved by such a quick and massive response, the police officer thought it prudent to release the girl forthwith rather than create an ugly situation. The law enforcement agencies have to clearly upgrade their technology skills to deal with the new age protesters.
To deal with a young India, the government and the administrative machinery have to understand the youth’s aspirations, idioms and lifestyles. The administration at all levels needs to evolve to match the aspirations of the youth.
The author is municipal commissioner of Ahmedabad.