Where is the Demographic Dividend in Indian politics?

India might be ‘Youngistaan’ but its leaders are definitely ‘Oldistaan’: India is a young country with old leaders!Is it time for youth reservation? Looks like a fair way to represent over 65-70% of India's population by reserving their seats so that they get to represent Indian youth & their issues!

India might be ‘Youngistaan’ but its leaders are definitely ‘Oldistaan’: India is a young country with old leaders! Is it time for youth reservation? Looks like a fair way to represent over 65-70% of India’s population by reserving their seats so that they get to represent Indian youth & their issues!

The demographic dividend of a country lies in counting the many promises its youth has on cards. A country with over 800 million people below the age of 35 is mind boggling! But what exactly is the political age of this country? By political age I respect ageless wisdom and the grey hair associated with it but Indian values for grey hair do not match its need for young blood.

The average age of the cabinet ministers in India is 65 years and the majority of important cabinet positions are with politicians who were born before India’s independence. India is the only country where a 58 year old leader like Shashi Tharoor is considered a Young Turk. By saying this; I mean age has nothing to do with meritocracy or wisdom. Of course we have senior stalwarts in politics and brilliant diplomats holding important positions but we have no young ministers representing any significant cabinet portfolio in a country whose youth represent almost 65-70% of its 1.3 Billion population

With the elections upon us it is time for everyone to pander to the youth vote. Every party is trying to figure out how to target the 100 million new voters and the 24 million voters in the 18-19 age group. Their idea of outreach is to setup a Facebook page or otherwise have their son, daughter, or other young relative stand for election as a proxy. It is no wonder that in some cases the policies of the country are diametrically opposite of what the youth wants. It seemed like a surprise to the politicians that there was such a hue and cry over corruption, or over the rape of a young women travelling on a bus in the capital. Due to social media and awareness, the youth of India wants what every youth around the world wants— accountability, jobs and a fair opportunity. Who will take mere words to the next level and call it action time? I believe the youth in India should have a seat at the table to bring in the change they need.

Every Indian political leader wants to emulate the social media success story of Obama but they forget that Obama himself became the President at the age of 46 in a country that is aging. So what is the solution— one could be that India has reservations for every kind of category, how about reserving some seats for the youth? Why should the youth not demand this when the politicians come looking for their votes.

Your thoughts are welcome.

 Sanjay Puri

Sanjay Puri has been working on Indian-American issues and facilitating stronger US-India relations through USINPAC (US India Political Action Committee) and AUSIB (Alliance for US India Business), two bipartisan organizations that he chairs.

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