Message from discussion Superpower Syndrome: Sid Harth
From: Sid Harth <sharth...@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: Superpower Syndrome: Sid Harth
Date: Thu, 7 Jan 2010 11:43:19 -0800 (PST)
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Inside the mind of young India
7 Jan 2010, 0640 hrs IST, Rama Bijapurkar, ET Bureau
Do we know what young India is thinking? The English media give us
their take based on surveys that they do, which, as has been pointed
out often in this column, represent less than 5% of the country=92s
youth. Often, it=92s hard to even figure out what segment of youth such
surveys represent, because the write-up is most economical about facts
like which income group or social strata the study was done amongst,
merely stating =93xx number of respondents aged xyz, from the following
cities and towns=94.
The internet surveys give us a window into the minds and worlds of the
internet-enabled youth; but this sample universe leaves out large
chunks of those who form part of our much-promised demographic
dividend. That=92s why it was so wonderful to see a book, Indian youth
in a transforming world: Attitudes and perceptions. Jointly published
by CSDS and Sage Publications, it is the report of a high-quality
survey of 5,000 people, aged 14 to 34, drawn from all states excluding
the north-east, Uttarakhand, Goa and Himachal Pradesh, and
representing all socio-economic classes.
The sampling methodology and the survey instrument have been explained
in detail, and the fieldwork relatively recent, done in mid-2007. Not
meaning to be xenophobic, it was still a bit sad to note that such a
study got done because Konrad Adenauer Stiftung initiated and
commissioned =97 and presumably funded =97 it.
It is true that in India, we generally have trouble finding adequate
funding for regular studies of this kind which tell us more about
ourselves. If the quantum of data were proportionate to the quantum of
our usage of the term demographic dividend, we should have had several
more and larger youth studies in the public domain. One is not
referring to countrywide studies done for private companies that
measure cola consumption or media habits or advertising preferences of
young India; but of public domain insights on how young people think
and feel about issues like those that this book captures =97 =91family and
social networks=92, engagement with =91politics and democracy=92, views
relating to =91governance and development=92, and their view of the world
and globalisation, their hopes, dreams and concerns and so on.
To set the big-picture context, according to the Census of India,
2001, we have almost 20% of our population in the age group of 15 to
24 =97 that=92s what actually ought to be considered the core youth target
group =97 and around 27% in the age group of 15 to 29. They are 69%
rural and 31% urban, yet what rural youth are thinking about is a big
blind spot for many of us, because it never finds mention in any media
survey; only 14% have finished school, and the number is just 9% for
women. Even in urban India, only 25% of urban youth have finished
school, and that actually represents around 8% of all-India youth. So,
let=92s mute the applause for the big bold move with wide ranging
benefits of the MHRD initiative to abolish the Standard X exam.
Despite low levels of education and income for the most part,
according to the survey report, optimism runs very high. About 84% of
the 15 to 34-year-olds in India =97 referred to in the report, and
henceforth in this article, as the youth =97 are optimistic about the
future, and only 3% are pessimistic, the remaining 13% are uncertain.
We always talk about aspiring young India and, indeed, 53% have high
or very high aspirations as compared to 28% who have low or very low
aspirations. Does it hold for the weaker sections of society too? It
most certainly does.
About 30% of upper class youth have low or very low aspirations, while
only 24 and 26% respectively of the Dalits and tribals have low or
very low aspirations. However aspiration levels do rise with socio-
economic status, but even on this count, at the lowest strata, 43%
have high or very high aspirations and outnumber those who have low or
very low aspirations. Just imagine the power of hope and desire that
we are sitting on, if only we could channelise it properly!
With aspiration comes anxiety of course, and 68% of the youth have
high anxiety about their future, 50% very high anxiety. If my
generation paid the price of the socialist ideology, then this
generation is bearing the cross of the free market, survival of the
fittest, keep up with the Joneses society that we are becoming.
What do they see as the big problem that this country has to deal
with? It is poverty and unemployment (27% votes each), while only 4%
chose illiteracy and lack of education, 3% terrorism and 6%
corruption. In fact, if we were to add population growth to
unemployment and poverty, then 67% of young people are saying, =93 I=92m
optimistic but please give me opportunity and improve my quality of
Poverty is seen to be the No. 1 problem ahead of unemployment by those
in the lowest socio-economic strata and the illiterate, but
unemployment is what everyone is deeply concerned about across the
board =97 irrespective of education levels or socio-economic status.
When asked =91what should be the first priority of the government=92,
guarantee of employment wins by a very wide margin over provision of
educational facilities or betterment of health services. May be it is
time to debate the value of jobless growth in the economy, and the
notion that growing self-employment is out of choice.
And what kind of social issues will gen-next grapple with? Ensuring
environmental sustainability comes in a distant third after
=91strengthening defence=92. Gender equality will be a strident call,
especially from the women, and more so from the less educated women.
Related to that, presumably, will be shaky marriages, though belief in
family still reigns supreme.
A big thank you to the editors and publishers of the volume for
putting this important study the public domain, and let=92s make a new
year wish that we will have internally-generated funding to do more of
this kind of work that will help us both in business strategy and in
public policy, to understand ourselves better, and shape the future
...and I am Sid Harth