The following is the script of the speech I gave at the National Youth Festival held at Devi Ahilya Vishwa Vidyalaya Indore in February 2015. I was adjudged IInd in Elocutions nationwide.
In December of 2012, I stood in the streets of India. I stood in the streets of India with people who represent every facet of the nation. I stood on the pavements of great cities of great histories, pavements that are erected over earth, pavements walked upon by leaders, religious gurus, the business elite and one legged beggars slithering like snakes on the concrete. These streets were the ones that I walked as a child. From rural village to bus stop to train station to the towering skyscrapers of the city. These streets that I stood on, watching from girlhood to adolescence to adulthood, watching through Internet screens and with nonresident visas in hand.
In December of 2012, I stood in the streets of India, on the cool concrete floor. And I cried for justice. Brothers and Sisters, mind you, my voice was heard. My voice shook up the very corridors of the parliament. How? Because it was not me, an anonymous little girl but 500 million youth of this nation called India.
Good Afternoon to all and sundry present here. Today I occupy this esteemed pulpit to share my views on the topic “Youth Power”. As a comedian leaves everyone laughing. Today on 152nd birth anniversary year of our youth icon Vivekananda, I assure you all that I will leave each one of you thinking.
Youth. Youth is just not a time of life. It is a temper of the will. It is the vigor of emotions. It is the quality of imagination. It is the appetite for adventure over the love of ease. It is the predominance of courage over timidity. Youth was not just a time of life for Khudiram Bose who was hanged at the age of 18. Youth was not just a time of life for Surya Sen killed in the Chittagong Uprising. Youth was not just a time of life for Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Mangal Pandey, Subhash Chandra Bose, Aruna Asaf Ali, Sarojini Naidu and thousands of unsung ,unknown heroes who either perished or survived as physical wrecks in the Andaman jails. Youth was this spirit, which could neither be suppressed by the bullet of the British or the incessant ideological refrain of the white man’s superiority.
Alas! Gone are those days. Gone are those days my friends. The spirit of patriotism today has evaporated in the smoke of cocaine. The sense of responsibility has vanished in the cosmos of social networking. Our culture and values have dissolved and disappeared in the flask of beer.
India a nation, which is standing at the brink of demographic dividend with two third of its population under the age of 25 is bleeding. India today, is bleeding profusely. With growing pool of fresh labour, India has the potential to steer the world in the economic and political arena but alas. Its youth are the victim of political insensitivity. Its youth are the victims of nepotism. Its youth are the victims of corruption. Its youth are the victims of drug and alcohol abuse. Its youth are the victims of peer pressure. Its youth are the victims of a dilapidated education infrastructure which produces degrees and not jobs.
But I say to you today, my friends, let us not wallow in the valley of despair, let us not wallow in the valley of hopelessness. Millions of youth even today wish to join army and civil services to serve the nation. Today, this generation has become the pallbearers of democracy forcing every party to reform their agenda and making it youth centric. The latest trend among political parties is to portray their leaders as “for the youth ” to garner maximum support. Level of awareness has increased manifold. Sites like twitter have provided a platform to them to express their aspirations, anger, joy and disappointments leading to major revolutions around the world like “The Arab Spring” .
From the ashes a fire shall be broken,
A light from the shadows shall spring,
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be the king
On the economic front it was this young blood which steered the IT- software revolution. Today, India is proud to have budding entrepreneurs which are forming companies on unique solutions to certain basic problems. On the social front, lakhs of dedicated men and women sacrificing comfort and consumerist allurements are trying to build a new India in the remote villages and hilly regions of this vast land. Your speaker today is also a humble member of such an organization teaching children of the labourers moving between different construction sites. We have numerous youth icons inspiring us from all phases – Sachin Tendulkar, Vijendra Kumar, Saina Nehwal , Rahul Gandhi, Chetan Bhagat, Kalpana Chawla, Sunita Williams, Indira Nooyi and the list goes on.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. I have a dream when again the ocean of the power of youth will assemble to wipe this country of corruption. I have a dream that one day we will have the youth working at every level of governance. I have a dream when the youth will unite despite all differences of caste, religion or creed. I have a dream of the young leading the Swach Bharat Abhiyan . I have a dream of what Vivekananda wanted “ Youth with muscles of iron and nerves of steel” .
We need to tap the potential of the young blood. What India needs today is a second social revolution spearheaded by the youth, the first one being the enforcement of our constitution. If Kamal Ataturk can do it in Turkey we can do it too. Only the youth of our country have the strength and will to wipe out and demolish religious dogmas and social evils like dowry system, gender equality. All the young women, my appeal is esp to you, to organize your power and demand equal rights, equal pay, respect and equal position in the society. On the employment front, more emphasis should be paid on career oriented courses. Will it not benefit the youth and as well agriculture , if we “Brand ” farming and allied activities as profitable and cool? On issues related to health peer to peer dialogue on the lines of ASHA workers can be implemented. New counselling, sports and recreational centers should be set up. New , intense and visible anti-drug use campaigns should be created. From this podium , I propose that the Government should formulate a “Youth agenda” encompassing all their aspirations having active involvement from the civil society.
In the end, I wish to conclude by saying that, we have heard what we need to do. We have seen what we need to do. And now is the time to do it. And together we can do it. But who said you need to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. And even if you find yourself standing alone, don’t quiver and keep going.
If they answer not to your call, walk alone
If they are afraid and cower mutely facing the wall
O thou unlucky one,
Open your mind and speak out alone.
If they do not hold up the light when the night is troubled with storm,
O thou unlucky one,
With the thunder flame of pain ignite your own heart
And let it burn alone.
Open thy mind and walk alone. Walk alone