Our demography and political space have been gradually changing over the years. In these times, the youth are being seen as our valuable demographic capital. There is both the need and encouragement for young individuals to start contributing to governance and political spaces in areas beyond joining the bureaucracy or directly contesting elections.
“Politics” had started to be largely seen as a space with several negative connotations. Political patronage, “muscle power”, financial clout were the most common avenues through which one could enter the political sphere. The only other job that could enable oneself to influence policy or impact society at large was by preparing for years to clear the (very) highly competitive civil service exams and land a job in the government.
But, today, the young interested in the public policy/social sector have more avenues to work in their field of interest. There is a renewed interest visible among the youth to participate, shape and work from within the governance and political system. The opportunities are available at different levels – as a researcher in a think tank, as political consultants working on electoral campaigns or on constituency development for legislators, an intern in a government institution or as a volunteer in an NGO.
In the West, think tanks play an important role in aiding the government in deciding policy frameworks. This trend is in its nascent stage in India, but the numbers of such organisations are steadily increasing. Indian think tanks like Centre for Policy Research (CPR) have always offered an interesting opportunity for people interested to work in the policy space.
In the recent past, we have seen some prestigious think tanks from the West, like the Brookings Institution start their operation in India. The trend is expected to grow, and we could see more such institutions in India in the future. Internships at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the former Planning Commission have also been coveted opportunities for the youth to engage in the policy sphere. These institutions follow a rolling intake policy accepting applications throughout the year.
Work at the grassroots level is fast gaining popularity as the interest to understand complexities in policy implementation attract the youth today. NGOs offer interesting opportunities in various sectors like Education, Health, Rural Development, Environment, etc.
A lot of state governments including Haryana and Maharashtra have started fellowships that seek young individuals who could help support the implementation efforts of the government in key areas. There are opportunities to work with political consultancies like IPAC, Samagra or Fourth Lion that cover areas ranging from election campaigning to constituency development. Even the NITI Aayog and Union Ministries have called for young professionals looking to make an impact and offer specific project related opportunities lasting a couple of years.
One opportunity worth discussing more is the Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellowship. It is a two-year programme where fellows as ‘facilitators of development’ support the district administrative setup. It is an initiative run by the Ministry of Rural Development to engage young professionals with the District Collectors and help ground level institutions build capacity.
In the parliamentary policy space, the Legislative Assistants to Members of Parliament (LAMP) Fellowship is a unique chance for young Indians to be mentored by Members of the Parliament for a period of 11 months. During the course of the programme, the Fellows work full time with an MP providing research input to the MP’s parliamentary interventions, and this requires following the parliamentary functioning and legislative developments diligently.
The Fellows, among other things, would brief the MP on important legislations, prepare questions and provide input for debates. LAMP Fellows also engage with policy makers and experts from diverse sectors through participation in several workshops on important policy and development issues to understand the space better. The fellowship invites applications on a yearly basis and is currently accepting applications for its 2017-2018 programme till February 12, 2017.
Fellowships and internships are excellent mediums to bridge the gap between the policy-governance space and young India’s aspirations.
Very often these experiences serve as stepping stones for the youth to join the public sector space, shedding the disillusionment that usually surrounds it. The youth today is motivated to come forward and share the responsibility of governance, dispelling any previous cloud of ignorance. No longer is it perceived as the “bad world” of politics, and young people are willing to come together to bring reforms and new ideas to the table.