Youth for Equality, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Monday, March 26, 2007

Youth For Equality vie for ‘empowerment’


Youth For Equality vie for ‘empowerment’

Pallavi Singh

New Delhi, March 25: In 2006, a bunch of restless medical students from five medical colleges in the Capital floated Youth For Equality (YFE), a movement against Central Government's proposal to implement 27 per cent quota for OBCs. Their tagline: 'Non-Violent. Non-Political. United'.

A year later, they have charted a new course for themselves: Delhi municipal elections. The YFE is seeking political space in country's Capital by extending support to three Independent candidates in the upcoming polls.

The purpose, as its members point out, is simple: "Political empowerment to get things done the right way." Behind them is the experience of JNU Student Union polls last year and the Mumbai municipal polls early this year. "At JNU, we put up a close fight and won most seats in Science schools," says Lokesh Paliwal, YFE activist from a city medical college.

The Mumbai experience wasn't very heartening though. Out of two candidates fielded, one won but the other lost. In Delhi, they remain confident of victories despite their hats in a political ring dominated by the Congress and the BJP. Their hope: the young voters.

YFE's website lists more than 18,000 members and links to 13 chapters the world over. And, while the group is low on finance, the strong network of volunteers may swing a lot in its favour.
This jeans-clad group of students and professionals hopes to change the general perception that there is disdain among youth for electoral processes, be it contesting polls or voting. But beyond the much-spoken goal of changing perceptions lies a plan to keep the movement going.

As member of YFE-JNU unit Manoranjan Mishra points out, "issue-based agitations alone did not yield desired results. Several protest marches and hunger strikes in 2006 did lead to YFE's growth from a few to thousands of volunteers nationwide, but negotiations with the government on quota issue didn't yield much. That is when we realised we must contest elections and connect with the masses," says Mishra.

Out of the three YFE-supported hopefuls in MCD polls, two are in their early 20s. Says Pradeep Jha, a post-graduate from DU and a UPSC aspirant, who is contesting from GTB Nagar in Kingsway camp: "Participating in direct democracy to bring about change is much more lucrative than becoming part of a service where you are cut off from the masses."

On campaign trail, Jha goes door-to-door seeking votes and spending time with senior citizens in parks while volunteers market posters and t-shirts to raise funds. Sanjay Kumar, a PhD student from AIIMS who is contesting from Kasturba Nagar, has even put his medical expertise to optimum use by organising health camps.


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