Meghalaya youth policy, 2021: Some observations
By Benjamin Lyngdoh
‘The youth are the present and the future of the society’. This is a common youth-oriented statement. It is a futuristic statement and it underlines ‘the youth’ as critical stakeholders in growth. However, leaving this ‘future-orientation’ aside; the status of the youth ‘today’ in relation to the opportunities available for livelihoods is an important indicator of social disharmony. Being a negative indicator, it would be best if this parameter is at its lowest degree. As such, a policy primarily thrives to mitigate social disharmony and carry all stakeholders in the path of development.
In this regard, the Meghalaya youth policy, 2021 aims at doing the same. Here, learning from the past is important so as to better understand the present and effectively plan for the future. At the very outset, this is what ‘any’ policy is supposed to do. The failure to factor this will result in the policy document being only a booklet which is disengaged from the ground realities. In such a backdrop, it is imperative of Meghalaya youth policy, 2021 to be a robust and dynamic document which reflects the ground realities and the needs of the youth thereby paving a strategy for empowerment. In this context, some points are raised which may be of interest to the policy formulators.
To start with, the delivery mechanism of the policy interventions is the key. The focus must be on reaching the target group of 15-29 years as per their interest and motivation. Accordingly, the state government can look into the possible realignment of sports and youth affairs. True, they are related. However, in relation to policy implementation; it may be done so in terms of two different directorates namely, the directorate of sports and the directorate of youth affairs. The implication of this is also that in future they (sports and youth affairs) may be formulated as different policies altogether with a specific target population. This is because everyone in the age bracket of 15-29 years is rightly considered as a youth; but, not every one of them plays sports.
Many of the youth are not inclined towards sports as a serious activity apart from it being a regular exercise. Their focus is more towards the creative industry (graphics, visual arts, fashion, computer games, coding, etc), arts, drama, songs, dance, films, etc. Moreover, youth affairs are about well-being and empowerment. As such, if sports and youth affairs are just one directorate; the focus would be lost and the target youth unreached. In the process, we are bound to leave out and to lose out on many. Alas, the policy is defeated from its inception. In addition, the policy talks of ‘collaborating, partnering and aligning with all the stakeholders working for the youth’. Well, this can be better executed if sports and youth affairs are clearly demarcated as different directorates.
In continuation of the above, sports is a pretty straight-forward affair. In fact, the state government has a well structured framework as far as sports promotion is concerned. At the ground level the district sports officers are present to oversee the developments. In addition, many localities and towns have sports clubs which augments well for the youth. However, the bigger issues of youth affairs require more attention as of now. Here, competency building is the key. It is time that the focus should shift from mere education and capacity building. This is because education tends to focus more on knowledge and capacity building on the personality. Well, competency includes both education and capacity building. It is a case of hitting two birds with one stone. In general, competency is defined as ‘the holistic upbringing of the youth in the domains of knowledge, skills and attitude’. The emphasis on attitude must be given adequate attention. This is because a youth might have the requisite knowledge and skills; but, if the attitude is not there or not right then all the qualifications come to naught. The current policy document seems to be lacking on this front.
As such, the nurturing of an environment which initiates the birth of the right attitude is critical. Owing up to this reality stands as a major challenge for the state. There are many youth who do not possess the right attitude towards life. Some might say that this is a problem of upbringing but others say that it is a question of policy. Where does the buck stop?
As we move towards the subject-matter of data and policy, there is a matter of huge concern. For a policy to be relevant and effective, the data upon which it is formulated must be sound and adequate. The data must be representative of the youth of the entire state. The participation of the youth in data surveys is a must. This serves as a ‘big data’ on their needs and aspirations. Accordingly, a robust policy framework can be outlined which ensures engagement with the ground realities. However, in the case of Meghalaya youth policy, 2021 this is not so.
The policy document outlines that ‘the state government conducted an online survey to capture the present scenario and perception of the youth and that 500 individuals aged between 15-29 years participated’. Well, just take a minute and ask the question ‘only 500 out of 11 lakhs youth’? If anything, this sample size is not representative of the population of youth in Meghalaya. It would have been better if a wider enumeration was carried on (both online and physical interaction) so as to collect comprehensive data on the needs, wants, hopes, aspirations and sentiments of the youth. Well, ok; we can claim that the Meghalayan youth is irresponsible for not being aware about such an online survey. But, is not the primary job of the government to reach out to its people?
As we delve deeper into any policy concerning the youth, the heart of the matter is ‘employment’. One might say that employment must be the pivot around which the other guiding principles of the policy are based. This is because the employment factor helps in laying down the basis for a clear policy framework. For this to happen, a wide survey covering a sizeable proportion of the youth is needed. It will take time and money, but it would be time and money well spent. In the process, other important issues facing the youth such as mental health and neurotic concerns, drugs and substance abuse, gender inequality and gender discrimination, etc can also be inquired upon. This will result in a rich database which can then be used for framing policies, etc for their real benefit. In the end, a policy is incomplete without strategies. They are two sides of the same coin. What are the strategies of the state government in relation to the policy? How are they to be implemented? These too are required to be spelt out so as to ensure inclusiveness of all the stakeholders. The Meghalaya youth policy, 2021 is silent on this front apart from mentioning that various other government departments (like Health and Family Welfare, Labour, Planning, etc) will be involved in the process. By the looks of it, there is still lots to be done so as to make the policy a robust and relevant document!
(The Author teaches at NEHU: Email: [email protected]😉