Care for the Future: Start with the Present

The past is history and cannot be altered in whatever the case. The present is short and very transitory. The future is long and we necessarily live in the future unfolding itself as present one moment after the other. While the past cannot be altered, the future can be impacted upon. What would impact upon the future is what we do in the short and transitory present. Thus our acts today, performed individually as well as collectively, would determine the shape, size and health of our future.

The concern for our future is all the more critical in the context of the Pandemic we have been fighting against as the rest of the world as well. The present has turned out to be very abnormal unlike in the history, and our capability to function has been compromised in every conceivable way and dimension. This reemphasises the criticality of the present for the long future. I have been highlighting in my recent essays the way COVID19 has compelled us to be realistic to view the varied dimensions of social endeavour as interrelated, and thus ipso facto the various sciences of study as interconnected. This is true in government policy formulation and implementation too.

But caring for the future by focusing on the present courses of action raises the issue of on which intervention and for whom intervention; this issue arises because the role of the state as provider of the structural mechanism for evolution, designing, coordinating and implementing any policy at the levels of individuals collectively and separately is undergoing a drastic transformation. The present in its extended form has demanded undiluted attention on fighting the COVID19, but the future and a Post-COVID future at that would be arriving sooner than later. The content and characteristics of this forthcoming future will be very different from what they have been in the past and what they are in the present. This differential future would necessitate a much more meaningful engagement of the state in the affairs of social functioning.

So, I am saying: (i) the future is arriving; (ii) the state has to play a more meaningful social role; (iii) the present is important for evolving and mobilising energy and policies for impacting upon the future; and (iv) future is important more than anything for we all live in the future. It is exactly here that the significance and the imperative for the concern with the youths arise. The future necessarily and realistically demands focus on the youths for two reasons inter alia. First, the largest chunk of social action can be performed in the present to significantly impact upon the future positively. Second, the youths in the present constitute the largest proportion of who shall be living in the future.

It was with this understanding that I have been focusing on youth and youth policies in my recent write-ups. In a recent piece, I have written that “the contextual appreciation of the social challenges being faced by the children and the youths should now be initiated in every level across the country. The appreciation of these social challenges should be followed up by identifying the differential components for the policy interventions in terms of the economic, digital, moral and scientific aspects. The challenge for the state is that every child and every youth should be able to feel and experience the equalisation of opportunities in every aspect of social existence. The importance for this lies in making the children and the youths feel the existence for hope and sustenance of expectations for the future. The absence of these would be a very fertile ground for the violence and conflicts to emerge and multiply.”

Now what shall constitute the focus on caring for the youth in the present for a better social life in the future. At the cost of repetition, I must emphasise that social policy can no longer be single-dimensional but has to be multi-dimensional in the inclusive sense. Given the size and richly-differentiated composition of the youths across the country, India should immediately put in place a policy to appreciate the understanding of the differential structure of how the youths live, survive and endeavour to thrive. This would enable us to establish the potential capability and identify the areas where further enhancement of capability is called for. A just published report of the ILO on Is the Future Ready writes: “The current generation of youth – born between mid 1990s to mid 2000s – are entering labour markets in which new forms of production are emerging, including production in global value chains, fragmentation of the production processes and automation. This is a time also marked by increased economic uncertainties due to business cycles becoming more difficult to forecast. The phenomena are manifesting in new forms of work (platform work, gig economy, etc.) and more job and income uncertainty. Temporary jobs, shortened job tenure and the reduction in lifetime jobs or careers are becoming a standard around the world.” While the problems have been highlighted in the conventional way in this ILO Report, we would emphasise going beyond the conventional understanding of Labour Market interventions. While framing youth policy, we would flag (a) the need for integrating the labour market interventions with the poverty removal measures; (b) the acceleration of enhancement of youth capabilities, given how the Pandemic has adversely affected the human capital interventions; (c) a new approach to generation of new entrepreneurs in a spontaneous way unlike the traditional entrepreneurship training programmes; (d) incorporating the interests of the NEET (not in education, employment or training) youths; (e) encouraging and enriching interaction and collaboration of youths with differential social and regional backgrounds; (f) equalisation strategies of the participation across youths in the digital economy; and (g) programmes for identification of the potential areas and regions for youth to engage in different crimes and strategies to address these.

While framing the inclusive multi-dimensional policy, there is the imperative for simultaneous formulation of a Quality Standards Toolkit which incorporates the timelines for performance and achievement. Above all, the spirit of the community in a non-partisan way should be natural cultural behavioural outcome among the youths as a result of the implementation of the contents of the policy. This is how we should be focusing on today for caring for the future of our nation.

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