Sustainable development after COVID–19 crisis: An urgent call for the youth of India

 Sweta William Parmar
Sustainability, especially in the context of India, needs more attention especially after COVID-19. As the Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) has shaken up the whole world through its widespread; the youth have stepped forward show-casing their social responsibility to reach out the humanity through their selfless service. Youth have provided an active response to combat the spread of this virus. They have emerged as frontline health workers, researchers, activists, communicators and innovators. The United Nations General Assembly has designed 17 Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and has intended to achieve by 2030. These goals are integrated into three dimensions of sustainable development namely the economic, social and environmental dimensions. The COVID-19 has challenged the achievement of these SDGs and the youth have contributed and will continue to contribute to these grave challenges of the globe, such as poverty, unemployment, climate change, violence, gender inequality. The youth of India are involved as a part of a healthier, safer, better, equitable and sustainable society. This article aims at social responsibility of youth during and after COVID 19 and suggesting possible and feasible solutions for the better future of India and the whole world at large.
Impact of COVID-19 on youth:
    The global COVID-19 pandemic has caused severe economic and labor market threats. An estimation is made that there will be rise between 5.3 and 24.7 million in the number of those unemployed globally, 5 the impact on youth employment is likely to be severe given that youth (15-24) are already 3 times more likely to be unemployed than adults. Furthermore, COVID-19-related threats to the labor market are likely to impact the quality of jobs for young people, be it in the form of zero-hour contracts, informal employment, etc. Such forms of employment are markedly more common among youth as majority of employed young people hold informal jobs are extreme and moderate working poor nationwide. Importantly, the impact on the quality and quantity of jobs will likely disproportionately affect young people engaged in the service sector and/or performing manual routine jobs. Young people with these jobs are also at risk for experiencing heightened health-related issues because they cannot work remotely. The global COVID-19 pandemic is also having an exceptional impact on education systems all over the world with far-reaching social consequences. According to UNESCO, 165 countries have so far (as of March 27) implemented nationwide closures of educational institutions, and several more have implemented localized ones, in total affecting 1.52 billion of children and youth. This number represents over 87 percent of all enrolled learners and is expected to increase further as the pandemic spreads and more countries enforce nationwide closures. Moreover, the duration of these conclusions is highly indefinite. The situation can be expected to have unembellished concerns in terms of interrupting learning, compromising nutrition, and elevating drop-out rates.  In this context the disadvantaged and underprivileged youth who have fewer educational opportunities outside of school, a lack of access to remote learning tools and the Internet and those who rely on free or discounted school meals for healthy nutrition will be affected severely. Another area of impact is on young migrants and refugees who have moved from the rural places to cities for the employment. Given 70 percent of all international migrants are below 30 years of age globally and in 2019, 38 million international migrants were below the age of 20 years, epidemics such as COVID-19 are likely to inexplicably affect this population. Furthermore, out of about 100 countries affected by COVID-19, 34 have a refugee population of more than 20,000 who are at very high risk as they often live in bad living conditions.
Role of youth as a change agent towards sustainable development after COVID-19
Youth is the most important and dynamic segment of the population in any country.  It is believed that developing countries with large youth population could see tremendous growth, provided they invest in young people’s education, health and protect and guarantee their rights. We can undoubtedly say that today’s young are tomorrow’s innovators, creators, builders and leaders.
Critical intellectuals:  Youth have the capacity to think critically as they are critical intellectuals. They are able to identify the existing power structures and obstructions to change, and to expose paradoxes and biases. Through critical thinking the youth India can mobilize the general public to get educated to combat COVID-19. There are many youth groups in the country who have already taken the initiative to mobilize people and kept them away from the rumors and myths prevailing regarding COVID-19.
Change-agents: Young people also have the power to influence and mobilize people. Youth have proved themselves as a changed agent during this pandemic by having broader connectivity and access to social media.
Trendsetters: In addition to bringing innovations, young people have become trendsetters by having direct knowledge of and insights into issues that are not accessible to elderly. Youth can understand the problems they face in a best way and can offer new ideas and alternative solutions.
Communicators:  Young people can be partners in communicating the sustainable development goals to their peers and communities at the local level, as well as across countries and regions. They can be the best communicators for making the people aware about various issues related to sustainable development.
Front-runners: When young people are endowed with the knowledge of their rights and equipped with leadership skills and personality development attitude; they can make a big change in their communities and countries. Youth-led organizations and networks like NSS, NCC and NYK, in particular, should be encouraged and strengthened, because they contribute to the development of civic leadership skills among young people, especially marginalized youth and help the community to take precautionary measured for COVID-19 and help in sustainable development of the country.
Contribution of youth towards sustainable development before COVID-19
The young people in the country are actively engaged as a COVID Warriors. Many of the youth and youth organizations have taken a front line role and have become a key factor in combating COVID19.
Raising awareness: The youth have proved themselves as COVID-19 warriors by spreading the awareness through different platforms including the social media. Youth have become a means for combating misinformation, social and physical distancing, discrimination and stigma related to the crisis to stop the spread of the virus. For instance, the youth are disseminating information to the local people in their regional dialect and language.
Reaching out to the unreached: Young people are involved in promoting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and WHO guidelines and addressing the COVID-19-related issues to the most vulnerable in their communities, including the disables, migrants, daily wage earners, laborers, the aged, refugees and those living in slum areas. Young people are further demonstrating the hand washing steps, usage of masks and making of masks to decrease the spread of infection.
Working towards Social justice and human rights: Young people have come up with novel ideas to minimize the risks that physical distancing poses on social justice and human rights. Due to lockdown, self-quarantine and isolation has limited the freedom of movement. In some places there are cases of racial discrimination. Youth of the country have engaged themselves in making people aware about these issues which are related to human freedom and dignity.
Saving lives: As India is facing the shortage of protective equipment the youth who are health professionals and researchers have risked their lives on the front lines and contributed in life-saving measures, supporting medical interventions and rendering their selfless service round the clock. Many of the youth also have come forward in donating blood during the lockdown due to shortage of blood in the blood bank.
The Youth of India are part of the problem analysis and solution, actively contributing to efforts to lessen the spread of the virus and alleviate the pandemic’s impact. Young people are the torchbearers of our sustainable development are advocating to achieve the sustainable development goals in all the spheres. The efforts have to be made to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and must include certain provisions which are responsive to youth and their needs and uphold their rights. More employment opportunities could be the solution to mitigate the impact of the crisis of the time in order to eradicate poverty, starvation, health issues, unemployment, climate change, violence, gender inequality simultaneously.

About the author:
Assistant Professor
NSS Programme Officer
Don Bosco College, Maram
[email protected]