Applications open for the Indian School of Democracy’s Democracy Express, a political leadership program for young political leaders

While I am writing this article a young man in Jharkhand, Sunil Kumar Mahato, has jeopardized the chief minister’s position with his complaint and invention. He is a freelance journalist who is for the fight for the right to information, and it is possible that the sitting Chief Minister might lose his membership and the chief minister’s post. Sunil showed unwavering courage, even against the most powerful person in the state, though in the same state a young journalist Rupesh Kumar Singh was imprisoned for taking part in a programme in which he had no involvement. He was arrested the very next day after showing the news of a tribal girl, and now his wife has also expressed fears for his life. In the month of May this year, young journalist Subhash Yadav, who used to constantly investigate the sand and land mafia in the state, was shot dead, and last year, a young independent journalist from Madhubani, Budhinath Jha,was first kidnapped and then his burnt dead body was found, he was reporting on the rigging of medical shops in his town. Though these  stories are from two different states, one common thread in all these stories  is the determination of young people, even in going against powerful institutions and individuals in their own right. These youths also come down on big movements for employment, and  recently these youths also have started boycotting films considering the essence of their message. It can mean that the youth is currently active or is trying to be active. He is also conscious of protecting the constitutional values, and by using the constitutional fundamental rights, he is also doing damage to the constitutional values.

The question in all this is whether the youth of the country are really not politically active. Statistics say that India is a young country with a median age of less than 29 years. But the representation in the elected houses does not show this proportion. This statistic is clear in the seventeenth Lok Sabha of 2019. The average age of Lok Sabha members is 63 years. After all, how is there such a difference between the age of the population and the age of the representatives? The situation in the state legislatures is no better, although in some states the average age is between 52 and 56 years. However, linking the participation of youth in politics with representation is both unfair and politically ignorant. Participation in politics extends beyond electoral representation, and youth participation becomes most important in these activities. Then, be it the work of organization, campaign management, or mobilisation of people on various issues, the role of youth becomes important in all these tasks, as well as in politics, where contesting and winning elections is as important as the management of the constituency for that election. The management of the constituency deals with the various aspects of the election and, thus, the participation of the youth in this process becomes important. The question is very simple: if the youth are active, where are they active? How active are they? He is managing his constituency in politics. On the other hand, he is also fighting for the public interest through independent journalism. He is also preparing for the exam. He is also waiting for things to get better. But the question here is, what are the dimensions of self-discovery available to young people engaged in their roles? We should identify that.

The role of youth is clear, whether it is a social or political movement or an election campaign, but the question remains as to why this group is still limited in their ability to control these movements or electoral representation.Beyond the roles of worker and assistant, what else can be considered a young person capable of leadership? Then, in such a situation, if we review on the basis of gender, then the role of young men and women will go on separating, as will the difference in representation between them. The role of youth in a democracy should not be that of a mere crowd or representation of one or two places within an organization. The role of youth in democracy should be as the energy of democracy, as an integral part, as an end, as the most important method of a process, and as the most important issue of the campaign. As an important step in this direction, the Delhi-based institution, the Indian School of Democracy, started in 2020 when a programme aimed at building personality and political empowerment was started with about 40 politically active youth, namely Democracy Express, a travel-based residential program. In this program, an opportunity is provided to develop skills in various aspects of politics, like team building, campaign management, constituency management, narrative building, etc., and to discuss with important politicians/leaders of different parties. This programme took the first step towards a larger process at a smaller level on how to change the role of youth in politics. The last two editions of the event have featured around 80 participants, most of whom are currently politically active and some of whom have contested, or are preparing to contest. The third edition of this programme will be organised from November 5 to November 13 in West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Bihar, for which the last date of application is September 4, 2022. All politically active people between the ages of 18 and 50 can apply to make this programme a part of their life experience.

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