‘Young India Referendum’ reflects youth concerns ahead of 2024 polls

New Delhi: The results of the nation-wide ‘Young India Referendum’ were unveiled on Monday. The referendum, conducted in over 60 universities across the country between February 7 and 9, aimed to capture the opinions of students and youth regarding education and employment.

During the referendum, students expressed their concerns over the past decade’s governance, particularly focusing on access to quality education and dignified employment. A 10-point chargesheet was issued, highlighting grievances such as fee hikes, unemployment, and perceived assaults on minority rights and scientific inquiry.

The referendum garnered substantial participation across various universities, including Delhi University, Jamia Milia Islamia, University of Hyderabad, and Benaras Hindu University, among others. National voter turnout exceeded 1 lakh,with significant percentages of students rejecting policies related to fee hikes, scholarship availability, and job creation promises.

Students overwhelmingly supported the Young India referendum, advocating for affordable education and dignified employment. Nationally, approximately 1 lakh votes were cast, with 88.33% opposing yearly fee hikes, 86% expressing dissatisfaction with the government’s provision of hostels and scholarships, and 91% rejecting the failure to generate 2 crore jobs annually.

At Delhi University, students opposed these policies with 92%, 88%, and 91% ‘no’ votes, respectively. Similarly, in Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh’s Benaras Hindu University, significant percentages of students rejected fee hikes, lack of scholarships/hostels, and job generation failures, with 84%-93% voting against these issues.

In total, 1,711 students at Benaras Hindu University voiced discontent, with 91% opposing fee hikes, 79% reporting no benefits from government scholarships/hostels, and 87% lamenting the lack of job opportunities for youth.

During the press conference, various student activists and professors addressed the gathering, emphasising the need for accountable governance and the preservation of democratic spaces within educational institutions.

Dr Laxman Yadav, a teacher and activist, stated, “Our campuses are being turned into prisons. I am a former professor because the University didn’t want democratic-minded people inside the campus, and this project is being made universal.”

Natasha Narwal, a women and citizenship rights activist, stressed, “Education has an emancipatory purpose. Students must learn critical thinking and start to question social injustice. However, the current regime has actively sought to destroy this aspect of public education.”

Apoorva, a student activist from South Asian University, added, “Young India’s call for a democratic India begins with holding the government accountable. We need jobs and quality education, not communal polarisation.”

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