Building a young nation of character

It is not enough to only foster cognitive intelligence among the youth. A well-structured national policy for development of multiple intelligences is vital for making India a global power.

Updated - May 01, 2015 03:35 am IST

Published - May 01, 2015 02:40 am IST

“Knowledge is gender neutral and can level the gender inequity of the last thousand years in India.” Picture shows students in Bengaluru during graduation day. Photo: K. Murali Kumar

“Knowledge is gender neutral and can level the gender inequity of the last thousand years in India.” Picture shows students in Bengaluru during graduation day. Photo: K. Murali Kumar

The world has come around to the view that democracy is essential for full human development. And only education and skill development can make this possible. The view of the late Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on the one hand, and Communists on the other, that economic development must be first achieved before democracy is possible, has been decisively rejected. But democracy cannot be sustained unless the electorate is well informed, chooses its leadership wisely, and this leadership is intellectually empowered by a multi-dimensional intelligence.

The world view of economic development has completely changed: it is no longer believed to be driven by human labour, as Karl Marx said, or by capital, as Alfred Marshall stated, but is knowledge-driven. For application of knowledge, innovations are required, and for more original research, we need many more young minds at the frontier. Knowledge is gender neutral, and hence the 21st century offers a great opportunity to level the gender inequity of the last thousand years in India.

Educational empowerment

The youth require a a mental faculty endowed with multi-dimensional intelligence. It is not adequate to foster cognitive intelligence alone — as is being done in India’s educational campuses today — but to also develop the other dimensions of intelligence: emotional, social, moral, spiritual, environmental, and innovational. India’s vast youth population is its demographic potential dividend, but only if equipped and enabled with this seven dimensional intelligence.

For decades since Independence, it was said that India’s demography was its main liability; that the country’s population was growing too fast, and what it needed most was to control its population, even if by coercive methods.

I had challenged this view in 1972, arguing that population growth was not India’s problem, and that the youth, if empowered by education, would be an asset, and not a liability, to the country’s development. (Noted demographer Ashish Bose of the University of Delhi had published in 1972 my research on this as a chapter in his book India’s Population.) Scientific innovations by educated youth can overcome the limitations of land, natural resources and production.

But the negative view of population prevailed till the ‘nasbandi’ (vasectomy) fiasco of the Emergency in 1975-77 forced Indian politicians to become less vocal about the need for coercive family planning. Today, India has the world’s largest youth population between the ages of 15 to 35 — and this lead will last for another 40 years.

I have written this before in these pages, but this needs reiteration: India should not, therefore, squander this “natural resource”. It should, instead, through proper policies for the young, realise and harvest this demographic potential. China is the second largest world leader today in young population. But this will start shrinking in proportion of its total population from this year because of lagged negative effect of China’s one child policy.

The total populations of Japan and Europe are already fast ageing, and have started declining in absolute numbers. The U.S. will, however, hold a steady trend thanks to a liberal policy of immigration. But even then it will have a demographic shortage in skilled personnel. All developed countries will experience a demographic deficit. But India will not.

Thus, India has now been gifted, through unintended consequences, with a young population. If the youth are taught to develop their cognitive intelligence to become original thinkers; imbibe emotional intelligence to develop team spirit and a rational risk-taking attitude; inculcate moral intelligence to blend their personal ambitions with national goals; cultivate social intelligence to defend civic rights of the weak, defend gender equality, and develop the courage to fight injustice; and develop spiritual intelligence, then India can develop a superior species of human beings — youth who can be relied on to contribute to making the country a global power within the next two decades.

Parameters of education policy

The nation must, therefore, structure a national education policy for the youth so that the seven dimensions of intelligence can be manifested in every young man and woman. Only then will the demographic dividend not be wasted. These seven dimensions constitute the ability of a person to live a productive life and for the national good. Hence, a policy for India’s youth has to be structured within the implied parameters of these dimensions.

The first parameter of such a policy is ability empowerment — the development of the seven types of intelligence. The second is a collective mindset about the legacy and future of the nation, which means knowing the correct de-falsified history of India. The third is the commitment to a social contract of rights and obligations such as a fundamental right to quality primary and secondary education, right to work, an obligation to compete for most positions of employment on merit, practice gender equality and place national interests above selfish interests.

A national education policy is, therefore, a framework for the comprehensive growth of the nation’s young population, to enable them them to be positioned in life for personal advancement as well as contribute to national greatness. India, however, lacks today a properly structured policy for development of its youth. As a result, many young people are led astray by drugs and crime.

What are the objectives that the youth should work towards? These cannot be purely materialistic because we know from our past history that though India was the world’s most economically developed country, it was subject to brutal assault and loot by a handful of foreigners, and, for a 1000 years, we could not rule from Delhi. Materialistic progress alone does not guarantee national security. What is essential is the character and integrity of the country’s citizens.

In brief, a national policy for integrating spiritual values and organisation leadership can be achieved through measures by which we can create a modern mindset among the youth. This will not only motivate them to acquire technical cognitive competence, but also develop their emotional, moral, social, spiritual, environmental and innovational intelligence. This will make them patriotic, self-reliant individuals of high character, possessing a social conscience. Governance, business ethics and organisational leadership has to be founded on that pool of talent.

Such an army of evolved youth will be the asset of the nation. Hence, a well-structured national policy for development of multiple intelligences is vital for making India global power two decades hence. This, then, would be a basis for our national renewal and renaissance.

(Subramanian Swamy is former Union Cabinet Minister of Commerce, Law and Justice.This article is the basis of Dr. Swamy’s Inaugural speech to a Convention of youth in Mumbai on May 2-3, 2015 organised by the Virat Hindustan Sangam of which he is founder-President.)

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