By Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, CMD, Biocon
The Lok Sabha elections in 2019 will be historic! An entire generation that was born at the turn of the 21st century will have turned 18 and thus become eligible to vote!
133 million young adults will get to exercise their franchise and thus give shape to their idea of India.
This overwhelming number of young first-time voters can have an extraordinary impact on the outcome of any election. Thus, their inclusion in India’s public policy discourse will be crucial in determining the direction that we take as a nation in the years to come.
If today’s youth is to engage meaningfully in the public arena as active citizens, they need to understand the fundamentals of public policy and governance.
Participative Democracy is the Need of the Hour
Academy-Award winning filmmaker and best-selling author, Michael Moore, famously said. “Democracy is not a spectator sport, it’s a participatory event. If we don’t participate in it, it ceases to be a democracy.”
He is right! Democracy is not a passive exercise of citizenship limited to the exercise of one’s franchise in periodic elections. Democracy needs to be more proactive.
As citizens, we need to know and demand more accountability from the political leadership.
As citizens, we should be aware of our responsibilities; shed our apathy towards politics and engage robustly in our own governance.
Public participation is one of the major mainstays of democracy. It promotes responsible, shared decision-making on issues that affect individual and collective life. Active citizens promote healthy communities, improve their quality of life and have a say in governance. In contrast, passive citizens are disempowered, alienated from public life and frustrated with politicians, public policies and public institutions.
Today there are avenues other than the traditional channels of politics and bureaucracy to engage in governance. This is why we need more good, dynamic young people to enter public policy, either in politics or as policymakers, policy advisors and analysts.
We need people who can lead a fundamental rethinking about the roles of government, citizens, and community organizations in the true spirit of democracy. In doing so, they will play a key role in ensuring policy making is more responsive to citizens and thus more effective.
In the corporate sector also, we need more skilled professionals in areas such as regulatory affairs, compliance management and corporate social responsibility.
Recent instances of corporate governance issues at some of the country’s leading corporate houses have dented their reputation and resulted in a sharp loss of investor confidence.
Research has shown that good corporate governance practices enable companies to attract capital from a much larger pool of investors and at a lower cost. These companies also perform better in the long run. And when they perform better it leads to better societies and the creation of sustainable businesses that contribute to the overall economic development of the countries within which they operate.
Effective corporate governance systems, within an individual company and across an economy as a whole, help to provide a degree of confidence that is necessary for the proper functioning of a market economy and to reap the full benefits of the global capital market.
India has introduced several measures to improve corporate governance standards. However, more work is needed to improve minority shareholder protection, support a higher degree of transparency and disclosure, and promote greater accountability of controlling shareholders.
India needs the leader in all of us
Today, we need to usher in the kind of political governance that is accountable, transparent, and performance-oriented.
We need a democracy where every citizen has access to modern infrastructure, good education and effective affordable healthcare.
We need effective, metrics-driven governance, which offers self-empowerment opportunities to the disadvantaged so that they can participate in growth and partake in its dividends, lifting them out of poverty.
We need to ask ourselves what can we do to improve the reality we live in? How can we, as citizens of a great country, ensure a better life for all?
This is where today’s youth need to play an important role.
It is important that every young man and woman in this country gets involved, to get their hands dirty and take on the challenges in order to build strong democratic institutions.
Leadership comes from within. Any individual with knowledge, vision and courage of conviction can aspire to become a leader. Today, as India faces enormous challenges, we require the leader in all of us to wake up and act. We need to stand firm to protect liberalism, pluralism and social harmony — the values the Indian republic has been built on.
India needs ordinary but daring young people, driven by the passion to make a difference, to take extraordinary steps in changing things for the better.
We need a more enlightened and development-oriented political discourse in India that rises above partisan politics and instead focuses on putting the nation on the path to robust, inclusive and equitable growth.
Today’s youth should strive to raise the quality of debate, continue to uphold decency, civility and decorum and aim for the highest standards in public life.
As Mahatma Gandhi said “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.” May you be and may you make the difference that this country needs.