New Delhi, May 31: The Congress may consider Rahul Gandhi a youth leader at 41 but party minister Ajay Maken insists that no one above 30 can be deemed a youth.
The Union sports and youth affairs minister, of course, was not talking about political leaders but about the National Youth Policy 2012, which he unveiled today.
The document has redefined “youth” so that the term covers only those aged between 16 and 30 — at least in the matter of government efforts at solving the problems of the young and looking after their welfare. The previous youth policy, formulated in 2003, covered anyone between 13 and 35.
If the latest definition is extended to the sphere of politics, it will rule out most of the country’s so-called “youth leaders”. For instance, Bengal Youth Congress chief Mausam Noor is 32. Most members of Rahul’s “youth brigade” — such as Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada and Sandeep Dikshit — too would fail to qualify.
Defending the changed definition, the government has quoted United Nations and Commonwealth criteria for “youth”, which are 15-24 years and 15-29 years, respectively.
Maken sought to expose the fallacy of the earlier bracket of 13-35 years.
“If a girl is married off at the legal age of 18 years and gives birth at 19 then, when she turns 32, both she and her child would be considered youths. The youth policy cannot be so vague as to address such a huge spectrum of people,” he said.
But Maken was evasive when asked what definition for youth his own party followed. “I’m sure the political parties are not recruiting anyone who is 13 years old just because the ministry categorised them as youth,” he replied, focusing on the lower limit when the question presumably related to the upper limit.
This is the third version of the policy, which was formulated in 1988 and re-drafted in 2003. For the first time, the government has divided the youth into nine “target groups” to address some of their distinct needs and problems, the highlight being its courting of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community who, along with HIV/AIDS patients, have been categorised as groups that suffer from social and moral stigma.
“Same-gender sex has always been treated in our society as perverted and immoral behaviour. The result of these deeply embedded stereotypes and biases has been that gays and lesbians are reluctant to express their sexual preferences openly,” the policy note says. It promises policy intervention for “qualitative change in the attitude towards women and sexual minorities”.
The other target groups include students, migrants, rural youth, tribal youth, those at risk (such as sex workers, drug users and trafficking victims), youths in violent conflicts (living in trouble spots), school dropouts and youths in institutional care.
Maken’s ministry proposes to have a “youth development index” that will routinely assess the impact the policy has made. The index will study indicators such as health, education, work amenities and participation (in elections).
The next youth policy will be published in 2022 after collation of the data generated through the 2021 census.