No Longer A Tomorrow

Dec 2, 2022

The involvement of youth in politics and governance can have an impact on the present sustainable environment policies of the government.

If remembered correctly, the current President of the United States, Donald Trump tweeted Greta Thunberg must work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old-fashioned movie with a friend. Chill Greta, Chill!

In hindsight, Greta Thunberg, a 13-year-old climate activist from Sweden, could, figuratively, ‘chill’ if President Trump and his troop of industrialists would become climate sensitive, or, at least, more aware. To inform the more newly awakened citizens, Greta faced more rage from world leaders, ordinary citizens, and the quotidian bigots than the climate crisis ever has. If the share of concerns received by a young leader was halved and instead applied to the impending climate crisis, a fear of a 1.5 degree rise would not be looming over our heads.

Greta Thunberg, Ridhima Pandey, Autumn Peltier, Alexandria Villaseñor and Isra Hirsi are just a few of the many notable teenagers worldwide who should, according to the POTUS, be ‘chilling’ with their friends, but are instead currently on the streets, making news and holding accountable a generation that only thrived on self-interest. Would any of the aforementioned people willingly, or moreso, voluntarily, invite hatred and rage if the fatal fear of future was not reasonably true? 

Should students with impressionable minds and the zest for life only be concerned with theoretical science that is buried beneath a practical danger of extinction?

We owe gratitude to these activists who, even if unintentionally, have sparked debate regarding the involvement of youth in policy-making. India is one lucky country to have its youth inherit a certain gusto from their freedom-fighting predecessors. After all, India is the most youthful nation among BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). With its large population and larger birth rate, India’s median age is expected to be just 29 years by 2020.

Moreover, in 2004, half of India’s population was under 30 years, and yet only 35 out of the 543 members of the 14th Lok Sabha were aged under 35 years. Thus, in a predominantly young and developing nation, reliance on the snoring and drooling Members of Parliament was a nuisance, and yet inevitable. And, as difficult establishment of youth in politics is, India showed expedient sons and grandsons of former Prime Ministers as faces of the youth.

Consequently, the youth in politics were ill-named because of the unfortunate faces representing them. A battle of young vs. old rather became the inexperienced vs. snoring and drooling. Even more amusing is the fact that only dynastically fortunate and renowned males were noticeable for youth candidature at all. The others, the young, nepotism-free candidates were considered political but unelectable.

Rahul Gandhi, Aditya Thackeray and Dushyant Chautala are the likes of the youth that entered the political arena scot-free and sweat-free. But those like Dr. Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid only managed to produce a rattle. A learned scholar and former President from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Dr. Kumar contested for 17th Lok Sabha elections in 2019 from Begusarai on a Communist Party of India seat.

While we quantify the efforts of youth in shaking the old throne in Parliament, we must also record how time and again, it is the same gusto that students have upheld with their education while tackling despotic rulers. In fact, since the foundation laid by A.O. Hume for Indian subcontinent’s first political party, a party called Congress, to represent the entirety of this subcontinent against colonialism, had its first members the freshly educated and the elite. It was those newly literate in English that were able to negotiate with the British. Albeit, education, especially in English, was purely an issue of class and accessibility.


Literacy was dangerous in the sense that it could make one aware of their environment, of righteousness, of rights. Therefore, most scholars have argued that the spark of youth had dimmed after the Independence Movement. That it lacked the raison d’être, or a purpose of existing. Several uprisings say otherwise. It was because of the education that stirred in the minds of youth, that mindfully and responsibly, the students organized large protests and strikes to dethrone the sultanate of Delhi from 1973–1975. It was later that opposition parties joined and catalysed the movement. But as students, the spirit revolved around the most basic of amenities which later unionised and became a reflection of larger social issues. The Gujarat Students’ Protest of 1974 brought its administration to a halt. An initial protest against fees hike in hostel expenses brought a larger issue of corruption, food shortage and poverty to broad daylight, so much so that the Chief Minister was asked to resign.

What is so particularly drawing about youth involvement in the political arena?

A coherent truth is people who bear the consequences of policies must be the policy-makers. This argument becomes ‘drawing’ contextually in a history of older, (thus perceived to be more experienced) politicians that have dominated the legislature for decades. But as evolution continues, there must be a proportionate contribution and representation of youth, of their ideas of living.

As discussed earlier, a proper higher education in India is a privilege, an entitlement that often individualises into elitism. History has also shown that disobedience, rebellion or even dissent must not require schooling or a degree. Courage is all it took for 14-year-old Payal Jangid from Delhi, who escaped child slavery and later became an ardent advocate for girls’ education. She is now nationally standing against orthodox traditions of child marriage.

Another such prodigy is Ridhima Pandey, 11-years-old, from Dehradun, Uttarakhand. She is one of the 16 youth petitioners at the UN Climate Action Summit 2019 that targets the government for its lack of action regarding the climate crisis. Ridhima was only 9 years old when she sued the Indian Government by filing a 52-pages-long petition at the National Green Tribunal for ignoring the high pollution levels in major cities. She has also sued PM Narendra Modi and his previous government in Maharashtra for felling the dense Aarey Forest to build metro lines.

The effect of the climate crisis is felt deeply in India even though, as a developing nation, it has little to contribute to GHG emissions. India, a primarily agriculturally-based economy, has borne the brunt of the crisis. With its varied landforms and diverse distribution of rainfall throughout the mainland, India currently faces: extreme heat, changed rainfall patterns, drought, depleted groundwater levels, sea level rise, and possible displacement of tribal and other forest ethnicities. Recognising its forest depletion since 1950, the Indian diplomatic team has actively participated at Climate Conventions. It believes in common but differentiated responsibilities. The earliest benefitting countries from the Industrial Revolution have contributed the most towards GHG and aerosol emissions. Thereby, the responsibilities as nations should be towards a common goal of sustainability. Yet, their financial and administrative responsibilities of environment conservation must be proportionate to their contribution in climate adversities.

India accepted and ratified the 1998 Kyoto Protocol in 2002, thus, accepting its intention towards sustainable and ecologically inclined shifts in policies. India is also a diligent, ratified member of the Paris Agreement whose objective is to keep global temperature rise in this century below 2°C, above pre-industrial levels. Our climate faces a risk of an increase in temperature of 1.5°C as part of these agreements.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Article 4.1(a) states that: “All parties, taking into account their common but differentiated responsibilities and their specific national and regional priorities, objectives and circumstances, shall take climate change considerations into account, to the extent feasible, in their relevant social, economic and environmental policies and actions, and employ appropriate methods, for example impact assessments, formulated and determined nationally, with a view to minimizing adverse effects on the economy, on public health and on the quality of the environment, of projects or measures undertaken by them to mitigate or adapt to climate change.”

Points here to be noted are: common but differentiated responsibilities, relevant social and economic policies, assessment and minimizing effects.

India’s exemption from gross contribution to treaties and major funds is intelligible, as the world’s largest contributors are the United States, China, and the European Union. However, there are two coherent arguments to be considered. First, India, as a developing country, is still one of the fastest growing economies on an overpopulated Asian subcontinent. Thus, its possible future development and sizable consumption poses a major threat of climate change. Specifically, of agricultural detriments. Second, China’s swift rise in its industry since the Zedong liberation of 1979 should be a deterrent in its status as ‘developing’ and its exemption from major climate treaties.


India’s current environmental regulations are governed under National Environment Policy of 2006. This envisages India’s commitment towards a cleaner and greener environment under Article 48A (Directive Principles of State Policy) and 51A (g) (Fundamental Duties). In a survey conducted among 175 countries by World Bank, India ranked 155th overall and almost last in air pollution exposure. India’s remedy to hazardous Air Quality Index (AQI) is not only noxious to its citizens’ health but also its economic health. India suffers a loss of 80 billion USD annually or equivalent to 5.7% of GDP in 2009. Initially, India’s conversion to a low-emission sustainable economy would be an expensive investment. Yet, in the long run, India’s overbearing costs and resulting environmental detriment would be minimal. This served as a realisation amongst our present youth: young leaders, regional authorities and NPOs must rise in favour of climate change.

Proper acknowledgement of the climate crisis and its effect on melting Himalayan glaciers, landslides, floods is a matter of urgency. Furthermore, an oath must be sworn against inhuman felling of forests and displacement of tribal communities.

One such progressive foundation is the Youth Climate Leaders (YCL) that globally propagates awareness and opportunities about sustainable development and youth-centric economic models. Its vision is to empower 1 million young people to lead climate projects globally by 2030.

While economic growth is, more or less, the foremost goal of India, sustainable economic development is the only way forward in which the country survives and battles environmental crisis as well as extinction of its generations. India must be a self-reliant and prosperous nation which is capable of coping with natural disasters. But in addition, it must act and stand by its neighbours who fear submersion. Reducing waste, categorisation between recyclable and non-recyclable waste, and heavy penalties on destruction of public parks and forests, are a few ways that citizens may inculcate regularly in their lifestyle. But, stronger, more assertive policies and executive decisions should make a new blueprint of the economic and environmental policy.

Environment has been a crucial part of judicial activism in India. Through Public Interest Litigations and Judicial Review, environmental activists have challenged the digressive governmental policies. The National Green Tribunal is a fast-tracked delivery of environmental justice, wherein petitions can be filed. When Delhiites argue amongst governments for its fatal AQI, a lesson from the Chipko movement of the 1970s, and even the present struggles of Narmada Bachao Aandolan should be remembered. One does not need a degree to advocate for their concerns, while education is a fundamental right in India, citizens from rural and underprivileged backgrounds have proven their diligence towards their environment. This must always remind us, in the backdrop of our Pollution Capital which suffers the same asthmatic fate from many years.

To conclude, it is no secret that the youth must be actively engaged in policy decisions. It is both a right and a duty. More importantly, initiatives, awareness campaigns, concessions on recyclable goods, and subsidies for solar powered electronics, are some ways that must be adopted by young leaders, especially those from urban middle-class backgrounds.

Younger people must be mobilised and motivated. The people must argue for sustainable policies as the climate crisis is no longer decades away; it is apparent, immediate and most urgent. An entire change in the framework of our economy and management is the need of the hour, or we will only be remembered as extinct, educated fools.


  1. Bhanu Joshi, Eesha Kunduri. (CPR India 2017)
  2. Gupte (2004)
  3. Protest Politics of Student Youth in India, by Subas Chandra Hazary.
  4. World Bank Report and Findings 2014.