ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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No Country for Young Men?

What Young India Wants: Selected Essays and Columns by Chetan Bhagat (Delhi: Rupa), 2012; pp 208, Rs 140

Of the contradictions besetting modern India, the mismatch between the high aspirations of young people in the country and the opportunities available to them to realise their dreams is among the most pressing. There has been an educational revolution in the country such that young people are much more likely than were previous generations to have been to school. They have been exposed through their studies, and via their contact with government programmes and non-governmental organisations, to the language of rights and liberal democracy.

But the Indian economic growth has not led to the creation of large numbers of jobs, and the government sector is shrinking. Most young people lack the basic skills required to set up businesses themselves. School curricula are often hopelessly outdated and many children in their early teens cannot perform simple subtraction or read and write fluently. Higher educational institutions are usually under-equipped and narrowly examination-oriented. Added to these problems are the difficulties that young people experience obtaining credit, widespread corruption, and an ineffective healthcare system; many youth, especially girls, have to leave school in their teens to look after ill relatives. If all this were not weighty enough in its own terms, it is sobering to remember the human enormity of this problem: 60% of India’s population is under 30, which means that roughly one in 10 people in the world is an Indian youth.

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