A new year, a new hope

Anugraha Rao
Sunday, 5 January 2020

Anugraha Rao speaks to some committed youngsters in their 20s to find out the work they are doing in areas like environment, education and political activism

Half of India’s current population is young, and everybody from common man to government, seems to have pinned their hopes on them to bring about the change that the country is waiting for. 

While many youngsters are struggling to grasp things happening around them and their role in the larger good of the nation, some seem to have cracked it already. We catch up with a few of them to understand what concerns and matters to them and what they are doing about it. Over to the youth...

Education is a basic human right and need. The government has many schemes where it is mandatory for children of 6 to 14 years of age to get free education. However, as per the available data, at least 35 million children in India do not attend school. The literacy ratio of the nation is 65.38 per cent with male literacy at 75.85 per cent and female literacy at 54.16 per cent. Hence, it becomes necessary to come up with strong agendas and keep up with concerted efforts.

A determined youngster, Ananya Singh (22) is sharing her knowledge with other underprivileged children of the city. She is a fellow member of Teach For India Foundation and teaches English and Social Studies to the students of Std IX. 

“We youngsters are very motivated. When we are made a part of the system, we work to bring the necessary change. We try teaching kids the values they need. We want them to pass with good marks but beyond that, we want them to become responsible individuals and serve society in the right way,” says she.

Considering the fact that these kids are the future of the nation, Singh says that it is their responsibility to give the best education to the kids. “We do a lot of research before we go to a class. As an adult, there are so many things that we know and understand but it is hard to make kids understand the same. So we have to work hard on that,” Singh says.

At an individual level, she has come up with a programme named ‘Rasta’ with the aim to build confidence among teenage girls. “I noticed that these girls are open amongst themselves, but their behaviour is very different in the class. They are shy, silent, and not very active. This started to bother me and hence I started the project,” says she. 

Mayuri Purkayastha (23) is also a fellow of Teach For India, teaching in a government school. She has seen the struggle of her parents who came from families that belonged to category of ‘below poverty line’ (BPL). 

Apart from teaching children, she took a major step. “Maharashtra government does not have the policy of giving free education after Std VIII. There were two students whose parents died and it was hard for them to survive. I tried getting funds for them and got them admitted for further education. However, giving Rs 22,000 per month to someone is a big investment. Not many people were ready. We somehow found a person who was ready to bear the expenses,” says she, adding “There are policies for students from poor background to get admission in a good school, but there is very little awareness about it.”

At this young age, she feels responsible for those two lives. “I already feel like a mother,” says she.

“I think kids nowadays need to know about current affairs. Apart from the syllabus, I also focus on imparting extra knowledge so that they can understand what is going on in the country, be it CAA, Ayodhya verdict or other important headlines,” says she.

For the past many decades, environmentalists are calling for support from people and the government of different countries to curb pollution, global warming, deforestation and loss of biodiversity. It is heartening to see young environmentalists like Jamie Margolin (17) from USA and Leah Namugerwa (14) from Uganda and the most famous name of 2019 -- Greta Thunberg (17) from Sweden making the necessary noise about environment conservation. 

These youngsters are actively trying to change the scary scenario caused by the wrongdoings of previous governments and citizens across continents. “Yes, we are failing, but there is still time to turn everything around — we can still fix this. I want you to act as if the house was on fire. Because it is,” Thunberg was quoted as saying at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. 

Thunberg’s steps inspire many to act. Back home, people like Tanmayi Shinde, 18, started her bit for environment from the age of seven! After completing her SSC, she joined NGOs like Swachh Pune Swachh Bharat (SPSB) and Jeevit Nadi apart from starting her own NGO named SPSB Tara. Says she, “The members of our NGO go to vegetable markets to spread awareness about the adverse effects of plastic on the environment. We also provide paper and cloth bags to vendors and customers.”

She personally avoids using anything that causes destruction of environment in any way. “I am a vegan. I am trying to be a minimalist and consciously use public transport over my personal vehicle,” says she.

Shinde aims to make people more aware and conscious of their actions in 2020. “People should stop buying harmful cosmetics, soaps and quit using plastic,” she urges.

Tribals are called friends of nature, due to their proximity with it. And contrary to what the rest of the civilisation thinks, they are not mindlessly using natural resources. Chandrakant Khichak (22), a tribal born and brought up in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, has been actively working to protect the forest of the region in association with the Forest Department. “There are approximately 100 houses in the village. As per the decided rules, two people from every house go for surveillance in the forest ensuring its protection. We have strict rules against people plucking leaves as well,” says Khichak who holds a Diploma in Forest Management, which has given him an in-depth knowledge of its importance. 

“We are a group of 20 youngsters working towards forest management. As soon as we got the community forest right (CFR), we made sure that nobody misused it. We came up with a set of rules to protect the trees in the forest,” tells Khichak.

For the smooth functioning of a diverse nation like ours, the Constitution laid down the framework demarcating political code, structure, procedures, powers and duties of government institutions and fundamental rights and duties of citizens. Over the period of 70 years, some acts were amended or revoked. Recently we saw revocation of Article 370 and Article 35A, and Citizenship Amendment Act. 

Such decisions are not unanimously accepted in any country. There were agitations and protests over some of these. In the anti-CAA agitation, youngsters took to streets — some showing solidarity with the agitators and some protesting against them. 

A student of Pune University and an active member of a student union, Tushar Jauhari (21) believes that being a student of history helps him understand the ongoing situation in the country. 

“Students like us argue on the basis of the historical references. If we feel there’s something wrong, we have a 100 per cent right to speak against it,” he says.

Protests are a common way to show disagreement. However, the organisers have to ensure that it doesn’t affect the lives of common people. Also it is also important to gather enough and correct information through valid sources to form an opinion. Jauhari agrees and says, “I read different newspapers, both Indian and international as also the official websites of the concerned bodies to understand their perspective as they are mostly based on facts and figures.” 

He adds that he appreciates the efforts taken by the government. “Being a responsible citizen, I have to support government initiatives which are in favour of the students and other citizens,” says Jauhari.

After completing her Master’s degree in Women’s Studies, Mohini Jadhav (23) is working to stop gender discrimination. Jadhav has been vocal about various socio-political issues including Citizenship Amendment Act. 

A member of National Students Union of India (NSUI), she says that India’s youth is always ready to speak about their choices. However, not all of them are united. “Every individual has a different mindset, hence we are divided. Some youngsters speak for the government, some against it. Sadly, majority of the voices are restricted to social media only. They do not come out on the field and join a movement,” says she.

Jadhav feels the youth need to educate themselves as many do not even know what and why they are protesting. 

She aims to be the voice of the underprivileged, but isn’t inclined towards entering politics.

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