Empowering Tomorrow's Leaders: Governance Talk Series
GRAAM's Governance Talk Series Unveils the Youth's Role in Urban Transformation
In a nation where the youth demographic constitutes a substantial portion of the population, harnessing the power of their participation in governance is not merely a choice but a necessity. With a staggering 65% of India's population under the age of 35, engaging the youth in governance becomes a pivotal catalyst for sustainable development. Despite this, statistics reveal a stark reality—only 2% of elected representatives in local urban bodies are aged between 21 and 35, emphasizing the urgent need for enhanced youth involvement in shaping the governance landscape.
Recognizing this imperative, GRAAM embarked on a transformative journey through a series of governance talks in October 2023, igniting conversations on local urban governance, sustainability, and digital governance to empower the leaders of tomorrow. This series brings together esteemed experts, policymakers, politicians, and academicians to share their knowledge and expertise on critical topics related to governance, public participation, and sustainable city development.
First in the series of governance talk held at JSS Law College on the 7th of October was themed on 74th Amendment Act and its impact on urban governance. There were times that we used to say India lives in her villages but now India is moving towards rapid urbanization and hence, talking of urban governance becomes all the more crucial. Speaking at the event, Adv. Dwarakanath Babu, the Director of Karnataka Institute for Law and Parliamentary Reforms (KILPAR) explained the historical context, the need, and the importance of the 74th Amendment. He mentioned that the amendment brought uniformity in the laws governing the establishment and functioning of urban local bodies. He said that both the 73rd and 74th Acts have facilitated the participation of women and marginalized sections in governance. He stressed the importance of youth participation in Ward Sabhas and Mohalla Sabhas, aligning with the spirit of these amendments, which emphasize the involvement of local communities in decision-making processes.
The second talk in the series held at Mahajana PG Centre on the 13th of October was themed on ‘People Participation for Sustainable Development of Cities’. Speaking at the event, Dr. Bhamy. V. Shenoy, President of Mysuru Grahakara Parishat lamented that despite good educational opportunities, the participation of youth of Mysuru in governance is very low. Despite 55% students in the state, only 12% participate in governance issues. He made an earnest call to the youth to actively engage in urban governance issues in the city. Mr. Manjunatha H.L, Program Manager of Civic Participation in Janaagraha conducted an interesting activity that involved responses from youth for problem of potholes on the roads. He said that students should make themselves aware about whom to approach for local governance issues. Mr. K. Sriram, Secretary of CREDAI Karnataka asked the students to adopt ‘glass half-full’ mindset. He commented that we are currently in the best space to look for solutions to complement government efforts for sustainable development. Mr. Shivakumar, the Mayor of Mysuru also asked youth to engage with Ward Committee and Area Sabhas to actively engage in sustainable development.
In contemporary times, leveraging digital governance has emerged as a critical strategy, that can help achieve transparency, efficiency, and equity in urban management. In this light, the final talk was held at Vidya Vikas Institute of Engineering and Technology, on the 31st of Oct on the theme ‘Youth as Catalysts of Change: Leveraging Digital Governance for Inclusive Development of Cities’. N. Varaprasad Reddy KAS, the former project director of the Seva Sindhu Project, emphasized the necessity of public involvement in governance, asserting that sustainable good governance can only be realized when the public actively participates. He also emphasized the pivotal role of innovation in effecting change, urging the nation's youth to think beyond conventional boundaries and craft innovative solutions for the governance challenges they encounter. Dr. Sudhira H.S., Director of Gubbi Labs Research Foundation, delivered an impassioned call to action, urging the youth to step into the void in political thought leadership in governance by considering careers in bureaucracy.
Dr. Basavaraju R Shrestha shed light on the current era as one with opportunities and knowledge, where "Tech for Good" reigns supreme. He stressed the tremendous potential of digital governance solutions, particularly in light of the projection that 40% of the global population will be residing in cities by 2030. Hence, he reiterated that devolution of 3F- Funds, Functions and Functionaries lies at the heart of governance. Sri. Kaveesh Gowda, Secretary of the Vidya Vikas Educational Trust and a dynamic youth politician, emphasized on the pivotal role of information technology in facilitating effective governance.
Given that we are at 0.3 on the political participation index rate, the governance talk series by GRAAM is the need of the hour. GRAAM took this mission to create an informed and engaged citizenry as a part of its Youth for Governance Fellowship Program, in partnership with Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF), Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA). Challenges in the complex machinery of government are humongous and youth has every right to be critical. However, their job should not end at criticism. They need to adopt solution-oriented approach, work on conserving resources like energy & water and dispose waste responsibly. With such active steps, India can leverage its demographic divided and become ‘Vishvaguru’ in the years to come.