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A Message to Youth of Modern India

Ganguly, K.K.,*

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doi: 10.4103/0971-5916.251672
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“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”

– M.K. Gandhi

Today, the Indian youth is facing a hard time. After seven decades of independence the youth has become more morally, ethically, socially and spiritually adrift. The lack of sense of purpose is waning in comparison to what it was during pre-independence days. They feel alienated and frustrated. There are many reasons (both internal and external) for frustration and purposelessness.

Modernization combined with globalization has changed life in general and the lifestyle of youth in particular in the last few decades leading to change in social institutions and structures as well. Besides substantive demographic change in terms of population, political decadence, rising unemployment, and eroding value system combined with excessive market-oriented economy have made life very complicated for the new generation.

The changes affect the youth the most as the young mind is like a clean slate. If the youth is falling prey to a rapidly changing value system on one hand, they can also be molded by inculcating good thoughts, actions, habits and values on the other. The contemporary social milieu needs to be responsive to these expectations of the young mind so as to make them partner to over-all development and nation building.

In order to make the youth of modern India more actively engaged in nation-building, a force that has lot of zeal and purpose to do something, the present system needs to be all-encompassing to be able to move with the young and old with the right perspective. To achieve harmony among the young and old and seamlessly function as a vibrant society, the youth of our country need to become the engine of change.

In the same context, it is all the more essential that Gandhian values are inculcated among the youth in earnest so as to make them more vivacious and active for nation-building.

It will be prudent to understand the problems faced by ‘gen next’ before any steps can be taken to inculcate good values in youth and make them healthy partners in nation-building.

Mahatma Gandhi and grandson Kahandas (Kanaa, Kanu) watching an exercise of volunteers, 1937.

To address these issues, Gandhian philosophy is best suited for the present day situation and needs to be epitomized among the youth. The Gandhian perspective of a healthy and pious lifestyle may apparently look very mundane but in reality it is very effective and lasting in the long run. The young may instinctively be repulsive to such values but elders, teachers and, above all, parents need to help the youth to imbibe these values.


To lead a life free of addiction, Gandhi suggested means and ways to youth in a very simple but effective manner.

Mostly young people depend on their peer groups and sometimes are led astray. They take to drugs, alcohol and watch adult content to spend their free time and negotiate their hurt feelings. As per WHO's latest report, per capita alcohol consumption has doubled in India from 2.4 litres in 2005 to 5.7 litres in 2016. Many of them are in a fix to distinguish between right and wrong deeds. The preoccupied adult most often cannot guide them at the right time and opportune moment, making it difficult for them to make the right choice and decision. Once the youth is in the vortex of addiction it becomes very difficult to get out of it.

Young people also get affected by the values of opulence and lifestyles of splurge in modern society and they try to adopt short cuts to attain material gains; failure to achieve pushes them into the world of drugs or crime.

Youths also get addicted to excessive digital usage. The technology provides immense help to the majority of our population but over-usage of cyber utilities has grown out of proportion and excess usage at times has proved fatal as well. Over-use of smart phones has not only physically harmed the youth to a large extent, it has also affected the mental ability and psychological status of youth. Some of them are indulging in cyber crimes. As cyber utilities are very handy and able to give desired outcomes without much effort, the young use it more frequently than it should be.


  • Substance abuse as self-deceiving eudemonia among most of the youth
  • Early physical maturity causing various psycho-social ramifications
  • Intolerance leading to violence in schools and colleges
  • Materialism leading to hedonistic lifestyle
  • Obesity mainly caused by irregular food habits combined with minimal to no physical exercise
  • Education disparity
  • Inadequate to no employment opportunities
No title available.

As such, it is clear that both types of addictions help the youth to achieve desired ends without caring for means. The present generation feels that means are no longer important, it is the end that matters.

The Gandhian maxim of “means are more important than the end” implies that one needs to focus on the means, not merely the achievement of an end at any cost. To reiterate the practice of honest means for the desired end, we need to reinforce the fact that the use of drug or alcohol destroys the very core of our social institution and does not help to lead a successful life. A short cut to achieve pleasure and material gain and escape from the vagaries of life by use of addictives (both addictive substances or digital gadgets) cannot be good means for achieving good ends. To address the malady, Gandhiji suggested, the youth should take into consideration various dimensions of their conduct such as the social, cultural, and religious and they should also make sure that they are meaningfully engaged with the welfare of society. The youth is very vibrant and energetic, dynamic and capable of achieving, provided that they remain on the right track. Hence it is essential for them to use their energies in a positive manner to attain long-term happiness in their life and also contribute to the overall well-being of society.


Attainment of puberty and adolescence brings different types of problems among the young, be it physiological, social or cultural. There are various environmental, biological and other factors promoting early onset of biological maturity. Biological maturity of youth needs to be harnessed for the good of the society. The absence of proper engagement with and guidance for such maturity among the young is worrisome and detrimental on many accounts. To address such changes in youth and active engagement thereof, the Gandhian tenet for them, ‘satwik lifestyle’, can be of great help, where inward happiness is development, i.e., it emphasizes the inclusion of basic human values. Right conduct refers to right practices accepted by society on the basis of righteous behavior by practicing obedience, etiquettes, fulfillment of social obligations, cooperation, sympathy, etc.

The youth of today is a victim of intolerance, impatience and of their own misjudged convictions as well. The traits of intolerance and impatience lead most of them on to a path of violence. A fast-moving society with compelling commitments often pushes them to a point of no return, thereby stoking destructive violent actions within themselves. The situation deteriorates further when the expectation bar of lifestyle attainments is raised and they are not able to deliver accordingly.


Gandhiji's belief and conviction regarding pacifying the element of impatience and intolerance of an individual is as true and effective today as it was during his time. Intolerance and violence are the two sides of the same coin. Gandhiji was a strong proponent of non-violence; he preached and practised non-violence against the British colonial power to get freedom for India. The trait of intolerance develops among the youth due to multifactorial disappointment, disenchantment and decadency in our system. The virtue of self-atonement as practised by Gandhiji on many occasions can be emulated by violent youth for solace. The practice of self-atonement needs to be encouraged by the elderly to set an example for today's intolerant youth.

In a recent report, India State Level Disease Burden on Suicides, it has been reported that 63 per cent of suicide deaths have been reported in the 15–39 age group and it constitutes the leading cause of deaths in this age group. However, suicide death rate has decreased significantly from 1990 to 2016 for women in the age group of 10–34 years.


Today's material world is encouraging good and bad among the youth. The brighter side of materialism is that the youth are encouraged to work hard to earn and thereby fulfill their wish list. But the negative side is a craving for material achievement, and it is spiraling up among today's youth with a rapid pace besides a tendency to be a go-getter without caring about the means of achievement. The concept of materialism drives the youth in all spheres, who mostly keeps eye on his western counterpart and their achievement. And in many cases it has become a blind aping of the west.

Endless craving for the accumulation of different items without any check or balance may enrich the individual momentarily. But the irony is that a materialistic tendency also compels the individual to get satiated soon with the possession and look for more and more new items of the material world. This attitude leads to hedonism. A hedonist does not go by any logic, rationale or need-based accrual of items. He is obsessed with procuring more and more and splurging is their way of living. More and more youth are slipping into such a quagmire.

Gandhiji has not only forewarned about the consequences of the phenomenon, he has also given alternatives to take care of such a situation. He pleaded for the voluntary reduction of our wants to a genuine level. He said that we should set a limit to our indulgence. According to Gandhiji, material wants dehumanize the individual, who puts a premium on body comforts to acquire all luxuries of life that money can buy and fails miserably in doing so. This is due to man's insatiable greed for earthly material possessions.

Gandhiji often said that one has to renounce his cravings and desire the contentment from within. It is said to be Samthistha or Sthitiprajana that can only help one to dissociate from materialism or hedonism; according to Gandhiji, to accumulate more than is required would be a sort of theft. The youth need to be endowed with values of Samthistha.


Everyone knows the old maxim ‘health is wealth’, and even then people in general and the youth at large seem to be indifferent to the saying. The culture of instant and fast food has been all-pervasive both in rural and urban areas. Most of the people want to take polished grains instead of non-polished ones. High fat and sugary diets are the in-thing for the present generation. The young generation wants to follow the path of least effort, i.e., readymade wheat flour bags, half-baked package food (ready to eat) and so forth. Their minimal consumption of green leafy vegetables causes various digestive problems. The generation growing in such a kind of atmosphere tends to develop various diseases.

Gandhiji has talked at length regarding satwik food, which definitely takes care of obesity and allied maladies among youth. Though sometimes Gandhiji ate goat meat when he was young, he did not relish it at all and left it for good. He was also averse to cow or buffalo milk so he started goat milk with doctor's advice. Frugal eating behaviour was illustrated throughout his writings and discourses. It was not that he could not afford it, but his purposeful self-denial of a non-vegetarian diet, different hard and soft beverages, was to keep him morally clean and upright. Though the youth of today's generation may not be as austere as Gandhiji used to be, they can definitely emulate him on many counts regarding habits. Inculcation of Gandhian food habits can protect them from obesity and related ailments. It can keep them away from the craving of junk food. The elders need to walk the talk and set examples.

Age specific suicide death rates (SDR) and the percentage of total suicide death in each group. Source: Gender differentials and state variations in suicide deaths in India: the Global Burden of Disease Study 1990–2016. The Lancet (2018).

ICMR launched a diabetes registry in 2006 to map the pattern of youth-onset diabetes with relevance to geographical locations. Towards the end of the first phase in 2011, it was found that Type I diabetes was more prevalent than Type II diabetes.


The young generation of today is a victim of an education that gives a scroll certifying him to be worthy of the market and fending for himself. But the paradox of such a calibration of a student's intellect is questionable in itself. The simple reason for such confusion is a disparity in the process of teaching. Issues like disparity in education and unemployment among the youth are a matter of real concern. A nation of our stature cannot remain a mute spectator of the abysmal status of our academic system. Gandhiji dreamt of an academic system that would make the youth self-reliant and not dependent on their employer. The current education system segregates between public and private schooling. It is universally known that students educated from private schools are mostly comfortably placed (much costlier education) in all spheres of life in comparison to those who have been educated in government schools. In most of the cases, public school education cannot instill self-confidence in their wards. The disparity becomes glaring between the two types of youth while both are contesting for a common goal.

Greyville Cricket Club, Durban. Seated fourth from left: Parsee Rustomjee next to Mahatma Gandhi, 1913.

Healthy competition is always a good option but the present system of education is churning out competitors of uneven academic prowess. The Gandhian principle of education may help resolve this kind of disparity, maybe not fully, but to a large extent. Gandhiji believed education should be value-based and mass-oriented.

He insisted on imparting vocational training to youth so that they can become self-reliant with such training, with education linked with practical experience. Probably the disparity reflects upon our inability to make education truly national in nature and spirit. Gandhiji always advocated for a true, national education. True education develops a balanced intellect and, according to Gandhiji, a balanced intellect presupposes a harmonious growth of body, mind and soul.

An educated youth is the heart and soul of a nation. To make them truly educated, the curriculum needs reorientation at this juncture. The Gandhian spirit of overall development of the youth comprises education that stresses on mental, physical spiritual, social and economic values of life. And today's education is bereft of many of the said values.

Gandhiji used to say: “Education should not end with childhood as adult education plays an equally vital role in the development of an individual.” And a regular learning habit not only helps a man to negotiate with the ups and downs of life but also makes him an able navigator in the sea of life.


One of the most serious concerns is major unemployment among the youth in our country. It does not matter much whether the youth is formally educated or not. The employment market is unable to keep pace with ever growing job-seekers. However, a miniscule number of appropriately trained job-seekers still get jobs. The major factors for such kinds of anomalies are many but one of the key factors is a market-naive education system. The training imparted to the youth in their academic career is mostly archetypical and is not commensurate with the requirements of national or international job markets. The current situation warrants a considerable reorientation exercise in the education system, and also demands entrepreneurs to be hoisted to take care of job requirements both at the national and local level.

Gandhiji always did advocacy for sound vocational training for boys and girls. He felt that a large section of our country lives in villages and that there are various jobs that need skills of village youths (best suited for a village situation). If the youth of rural India develop different sorts of skills, they will not only generate employment for themselves, but they will be able to employ their fellow villagers as well. The irony of the current employment market is a systematic waning of rural-based employment. Hence the introduction of modern skills like digitization (it is good technology – if launched in right earnest, in consonance with local needs) of most of the sectors. Thus a major section of our youth and master of those (rural crafts) skills are in oblivion as they have not been trained with modern technology-based rural jobs.

The next generation needs to be savvy with modern science and technology to keep pace with modern-day development on one hand and on the other they need to acquire those social values for which Gandhiji fought throughout his life. The youth of the nation need to inculcate the values they should have for respect and regard for the elderly and truth, and retain the values of existing social institutions as institutions are the scaffolding of any culture. They should not get into the traps of caste or creed, neither allow anyone to exploit such issues for petty gains.






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