In speeches, predictions, and statistics, India has been widely proclaimed as a ‘young nation’. This term has ensued because of the substantial population of young individuals in the country. According to the Census of India, 2011, the youth population (18 – 29 years) was 422 million, accounting for around 1/3rd of the total population of the country. In a contrasting statistic, India had around 830 million people living in rural areas.
Now, the amusing proclamation of a young nation has a substantial undertone of innovation associated with it. When we imagine youth as a vision, we imagine visions of zest, energy and change, and rightly so. Countless young people of our country have jettisoned themselves into the unknown to bring meaning and impact. Examples can be seen across the spectrum of technology, education, art, science and sports. And the monumental population of 830 million in rural areas opens up new silver linings for the youth to venture into.
Our rural geography and its demography has been marred with problems compounded by racial and ethnic diversity and often, tensions arousing out of that. Education, basic health-care, connectivity to the national grid, agricultural support, deep rooted financial systems, livelihoods, ethno-cultural heritage, are some of the spaces where a new, youthful energy can help. The problems in theses spaces present a great opportunity for your youth to dive into and experiment with their knowledge to understand the local culture and present suitable solutions.
For the uninitiated, this path might seem dreary but a few ingenious examples will surely help.
Ashweeta Shetty hailed from the Mukkudam village, Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu and was born into a family of Beedi rollers. During the final year of her graduation, she began appearing for various examinations for further studies. A usual day at the library in her college brought her life to a turning point. The librarian brought to her notice an advertisement of Young India Fellowship of Ashoka University. Ashweetha applied for the fellowship. Ashoka University identified her potential and granted her the fellowship. Back there, in her village, there were hundreds of ‘potential Ashweethas’ whose lives, bound inside beedi rolls, had become purposeless.
This changed Ashweeta. After the culmination of the fellowship, she went back to her village and started Bodhi Tree Skills with some of her friends. The primary aim of Bodhi Tree Skills was to train rural students in important life-skills and showcase them the wealth of opportunities across the globe. Till date, 26-year old Ashweeta has reached to thousands of rural students through workshops, talks and fellowships.
Another example comes from Chennai. The Weekend Agriculturist consists of concerned working professionals and youngsters in Chennai who come together every weekend, travel to a farm in need of labour, and voluntarily work for them in every way they can.
Beyond the sheer capacity of an idea to bring in impact, change makers are also utilizing technology to fill in gaps in resource allocation in rural areas. We can look at the work of Venkat Sriraman and Satish Vishwanathan. They worked together as colleagues in Microsoft. In an informal discussion they were surprised to know, that while technology has brought countries together, there is still a lack of quality teachers in village schools. They sowed the seeds of eVidyaloka that connected rural students with urban teachers through online education and real-time video lectures.
These examples are but a few milestones to a path that needs to be tread with the utmost conviction. Problems blemish the rural landscape of our nation. And our claim of a youthful nation can only be justified if the young people of our nation rake up the grey cells of their untapped intellect to solve pertinent problems. Initially, disillusionment, confusion, and inexperience might sway the intended. But, there are many opportunities for young people who don’t let dismay triumph over their acute intention to solve the problems of their fellow beings.
One such opportunity lies with the 3M-CII Young Innovators Challenge Awards. The Awards seek to find ideas and new projects from young innovators communities that are ready to build resilience to the social, economic, and physical challenges that India is facing and lead the future of the world. Also, this year the Challenge has added a new section called “Rural Innovations Awards” to ensure support to ideas working for sustainable rural development. The Awards are now open for participation and nomination until 30th May 2018. If you have an idea or an innovation that can ignite the next generation solution to the last mile in creating a better India, then this might be the platform for you.