One half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it. ~Sidney Howard
“Really messed up, man, this country. I can’t wait to get out of here.”
“We just need to accept that things are never going to change around here.”
“Hello, this is India. What do you expect?”
Kicking back at the end of a long day and criticising the state of the country is something that has evolved into a great community-building exercise. After all, there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned nation/policy/establishment-bashing session to reunite old friends and create a comfortable camaraderie amongst new ones. But what is it that we want conducted differently in the country? Even if a resounding ‘everything’ is the unanimous chorus to that question, the conversation is rendered redundant and inconclusive if we don’t see fit to elaborate further. It’s so much easier to despair upon the ‘state of the nation’, all resigned headshakes and no progress, rather than taking out the time to pinpoint exactly what aspects, specifically, we want to affect change in.
Earlier this year, the media was awash with the coverage of the national elections, with Modi’s roaring victory making international headlines and heralding what was undeniably a new era in Indian politics. In a country where more than half the population is under the age of 35, Operation Black Dot took it upon themselves to spearhead a campaign that has made voting a cool constitutional right, amongst the youth of Mumbai. The awareness campaign, which was engaging, fun and bereft of political agenda, was a huge success. It had 40, 000 first-time voters registering for their voter IDs and Members of the Parliament deigning to revoke their podiums for beanbags, to sit down and interact with the youth in an informal setting. India’s first voter’s party was hosted at HRC, Bombay, after the polling day.
Sadly, some of that momentum has been lost as we move at break-neck speed towards the State Elections, set to hit polling on October 15th. This, despite the fact that these elections are actually far more useful when it comes to seeing real, tangible change in your immediate quality of life. So when Operation Black Dot approached Homegrown a couple of weeks ago to work on an Urban Youth Manifesto outlining some of the foremost issues that the urban, middle-class youth in the country has to contend with, we didn’t bother containing our excitement. Blending OBD’s massive research and data reach amongst the youth with our conceptual & editorial vision, we engaged over 2500 young citizens in Mumbai over the past three weeks in a survey to collate relevant, if optimistic, demands, and innovative solutions alike to form this comprehensive manifesto.
This is to be presented to the new state government, post the state elections mid-October. These discussions, both qualitative and quantitative, are limited to issues in Bombay that directly affect us – as we wanted to start with the civic issues, and the slice of the population that we understand, so that the conversation can later be taken forward to involve other parts of the country as well. As far as we saw, there are six broad categories of issues that a majority of us could relate to, along the lines of which the Manifesto is being drafted:
I. Public Infrastructure
We’re going to be talking about the invincible traffic on the streets of Bombay, the dubious efficiency of public transport, problems brought on by the monsoons and local area-wise management under this. Not to mention innovative solutions to many of the same.
II. Urban Entertainment
Issues like entertainment taxes, some of our favourite venues shutting down, incentives for public art projects and spaces available for cultural exhibitions and workshops in the city, in the hopes of fostering an atmosphere of creativity in the city, are going to be discussed under this sub-category.
This section is going to involve taking a long hard look at the existing curriculum, our abashed approach to sex education, incentivised volunteer programmes, administration-student interaction and the freedom of choosing subjects/courses within a university.
This sub-heading broaches the idea of the government taking a more tech-savvy approach to address a generation that is constantly tuned in to social media trends.
V. Government-Citizen Communication/Interaction
We’re proposing a means for the government to become a more accessible body to the youth as a part of this, in an attempt to increase a two-way flow of communication and foster a better understanding of our demands. We especially focussed on enhanced visual communication and relevant technology to do the trick.
Besides the all-too-pertinent issue of women’s safety, we’re looking at inducing a sensitisation in the youth about their rights, and amongst police officials, regarding their approach to the youth.
Somewhere between the resigned cynicism and wide-eyed idealism, there exists a chasm of constructive, practical solutions that we can arrive at, to catalyse a palpable change that will be reflected in each and every one of our lives. Over the course of the three weeks of analysing the data OBD collected, the insights and solutions we received were both revealing and interesting, to say the very least. One aspect that stood out in particular was the tumult of issues that could be side-stepped altogether through a large-scale digitisation of administrative processes across the aforementioned spheres. This is not the sound of self-satisfied teenagers living large without consequence. This is the sound of democratic participation, in the midst of a new awakening. We hope you feel inspired to join in the conversation too.
Stay tuned for our Homegrown X Operation Black Dot series of articles, which will be shedding light on all the above mentioned issues, individually, as we move forth towards the upcoming State Elections.
Words: Aditi Dharmadhikari