Saturday, 24 October, 2020

Apolitical Youths Concerned About Governance

Kushal Pokharel


Growing dissatisfaction of youths towards politics and governance system has emerged globally of late. Contrary to the past decades in which youth campaigns were scattered and inconsistent, the latest rounds of demonstration appear with more clarity. Whether we refer to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ in the United States or ‘Enough Is Enough’ movement gradually gaining momentum in Nepal, the unprecedented collaboration of youths without any ideological inclination for the greater cause of policy reform, ending racial exploitation and curbing corruption has been remarkable.
Under the banner of ‘Enough Is Enough’, a group of young activists in Nepal has been protesting against the government’s inadequate response to the COVID-19 crisis for the past few weeks. Beginning from the street demonstrations observing physical distance and non-violent path, the movement culminated in a 12-day of hunger strike. Amid an overwhelming solidarity campaigns ongoing across the nation, the movement also drew the attention of the nation’s premier last week.
In the latest round of development, two campaigners who were on fast-unto-death ended their Satyagraha inking a 12-point deal with the Ministry of Health and Population. The most crucial point of the deal is about the complete scrapping of the RDT test and conducting PCR instead. Agreeing to amend its directives on management and control of COVID-19, the Ministry has vowed to put people coming from foreign countries in mandatory quarantine for five days and letting them observe self-quarantine only after the PCR test.
Additionally, the ministry has duly acknowledged the need of ensuring the safety and dignity of frontline health workers and other essential workers. In response to the campaigners’ demand on making government’s financial transaction public, the ministry has agreed to make public the expenses of COVID-19 management.
Such a grouping of youths was observed in the popular campaigns like ‘Occupy Baluwatar’ and ‘Justice for Nirmala’ as well. With more than 200,000 members on the Facebook group, the members of this campaign have tremendously increased. Although the campaign has received criticism for its loose grouping and the nature of engagement, it has become successful in shaking the policy thinking on COVID-19 responses, to a certain extent. Equally concerning is the issue of inclusive representation in the movement based on geography and class. With a handful of known faces of the newly formed political parties in Nepal involved in the movement, doubts have surfaced regarding the sanctity of the protest. The overwhelming number of urban educated young minds not affiliated to any political party is a testimony to the fact that the movement is not catering to the interests of political parties let alone the foreign agents.
Unflinching support from dynamic leaders of various political parties during the ‘Satyagraha’ has also popularised the movement. The peaceful nature of the protest without damaging public property and leaving the lives of general public unperturbed has received accolades from the civil society.
The implicit of the ‘Enough Is Enough’ campaign is that it has some key messages to the government and policymakers. First, it would not be wise to undermine the power of disillusioned youths. The conventional narrative of youths’ ignorance about state and political system needs to be debunked. Second, the nature of protests doesn’t have to be always violent causing heavy damage to lives and property. Advancing genuine demands through peaceful means can also create an impact. Third, the need of a central leadership in mobilising protestors is not always significant. As evidenced by this campaign, a loose grouping of individuals united under the core mission can equally help the movement’s agenda firmly establish in society. Fourth, youths outside active party politics can also be a harbinger of change.
What is noticeable here is that even those youths who are not the formal members of this group have expressed solidarity for the core issues raised by this campaign. With a demonstrated knowledge on the nation’s state of affairs, it has now become obvious that civic sense of youth has improved over the years with the necessary knowledge and updated information on politics, governance and various aspects of contemporary society.
Hence, the movement appears to be a well-thought and creatively crafted initiative to draw the attention of policymakers towards immediately taking corrective measures to resolve the ongoing crisis, particularly in relation to COVID-19 response.

(Pokharel is a Social Science and Research Faculty and an independent researcher.) 

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