The National Youth Festival in India is an annual gathering of youth celebrated to commemorate the birth anniversary of youth icon Swami Vivekananda. It is organized by Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India in collaboration with one of the State Governments.
Swami Vivekananda's birthday on January 12 is celebrated as National Youth Day and the week commencing from that day is known as the National Youth Week. As part of National Youth Week celebrations, the Government of India holds the National Youth Festival every year. The youth festival aims to propagate the concept of national integration, spirit of communal harmony, brotherhood, courage and adventure amongst the youth by exhibiting their cultural prowess in a common platform. This is done by organizing gatherings of youth across the country and encouraging them to take part in different activities. The activities held during the festival include competitive and non-competitive cultural events, martial arts, exhibitions, intellectual discourses, young artist’s camps, seminars and adventure programmes.
Swami Vivekananda and Youth
“My Faith is in the Younger Generation, the Modern Generation, out of them will come my workers. They will work out the whole problem, like Lions”- Swami Vivekananda expressed this confidence in the youth of this country exactly 50 years before the end of colonial rule while speaking to a mammoth gathering of youngsters in erstwhile Madras. Swamiji himself was the embodiment of youth, dynamism and vibrancy. Many great personalities both in India and across the world became deeply inspired by Swamiji.
Today, the youth of this country faces various challenges and the message of Swami Vivekananda has the power to guide them into the future. Swamiji always held that the real birth of the individual takes place when the purpose of his life is understood and he has the confidence in the self. Swami Vivekananda attached more importance to self-confidence than even faith in God! Swamiji believed that if our youth is determined, there can be nothing impossible for them to achieve in the world! He urged youth to have dedication to the cause to attain success. Pursuing a challenge with utmost dedication is really the road to success, for our youth.
Swami Vivekananda believed in organization and teamwork. Be it any sector from science, technology to business, teamwork constitutes a major cornerstone to attaining the desired results. When he was in USA, Swami Vivekananda was greatly impressed by the spirit of teamwork there and he thought of the need to re-vitalize this spirit of teamwork in India. Leading by example, he founded the Ramakrishna Mission and organized Sanyasis to work towards nation building.
Vivekananda Philosophy and Governance
Youth is that wonderful time in life when energy is limitless, human creativity is at its best and the ’never say die’ spirit is at its peak. Today, one keeps seeing and reading about the achievements of hundreds of young people in practically all spheres of life. Demographically, the India of today is at its youngest best .India with a large and young population has a great demographic advantage. The average age of the 125 billion -strong Indian population will be 29 years in 2020, even younger than China and the US. There will be a significant addition of about 63.5 million new entrants between 2011 and 2016, with a large number of young persons in the 20-35 age group. This is a great opportunity for India. Taking advantage of such an opportunity is contingent upon progress on the human development front to fully reap the benefits of the demographic dividend.
The Government is giving full thrust to the development of youth who form a considerable percentage of country’s population. In his Man Ki Baat Radio address to the nation recently, the Prime Minister urged youngsters to provide inputs for the forthcoming Youth Festival scheduled at Raipur, Chhattisgarh. If the present youth walks on the path of Swamiji’s ideals and beliefs, it will be just a matter of time before India becomes the leader of the World. In any case, we are the most youthful nation in the world but simply that is not enough. It is necessary to arm our youth with the relevant knowledge and skill that will convert this mammoth potential to desired results.
Realising the importance of Vivekanada’s prophecy for a total transformation of the youth of this country, including their physical, social, economic and spiritual development, the Government has launched a number of programmes to unleash the huge potential in youth. Among some of the unique initiatives is the introduction of Yoga in a big way and the support and enthusiasm it generated all across the world. Sawcchta Abhiyan addresses the need to inculcate in the younger generation the importance of cleanliness/hygiene, not only of self but also the surrounding community which in turn impacts the health, education, economic development, to name the few.
Programmes like Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Mudhra Yojana address the need to empower the youth who were out of the banking network and were denied access to financial services, namely, Banking, Credit, Insurance, Pension in an affordable manner. Many youngsters in unorganised sector will now be funded under Mudra scheme as per their requirement to the extent of Rs 10 lakh. Social Security Schemes like Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana,Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, Atal Pension Yojana (APY) and Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana further add to the financial security of the youth.
Programmes like Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) will incentivise skill training by providing financial rewards to candidates who successfully complete approved skill training programmes. The skills of young people who lack formal certification, such as workers in India’s vast unorganised sector, will be recognised. Under Digital India programme, it is envisaged to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy by establishing Digital Infrastructure as a utility to every citizen in the form of high speed internet; Cradle to grave digital identity; Mobile phone & Bank account, enabling participation in digital & financial space; governance & services on demand integrated across departments or jurisdictions.
Last but not the least is the Vivekananda philosophy of Team Work which Swamiji observed among Americans and practised through establishing Ramakrishna Mission. Even the Government has adopted it for better governance in the form of NITI Aayog where state leaders actively participate in decision making collectively and thus strengthen governance by Competitive cooperative federalism. Prime Minister calls it Team India.
Youth is an impressionable age wherein we try to model our life against that of a ‘role model’ or ‘icon’. This is the time when one is ready to take on tasks however onerous they are; the time when our ideals can drive and determine one’s actions; the time when we believe that we can do anything under the sun. This is the time when we are easily motivated by the environment and by what we see and value around us. Hence Swamiji called upon the youth to not only build up their mental energies, but their physical ones as well. He wanted ‘muscles of iron’ as well as ‘nerves of steel’.
What Gandhiji said indicates the great importance of spreading Swami Vivekananda's ideas and ideals among the youth in our country today. “He personified the eternal energy of the youth and their restless quest for truth”. It is entirely fitting that the Government of India has declared 12th January, the birthday of Swami Vivekananda, as National Youth Day. We must work to rekindle the eternal message of this great patriot and son of India.
Swami Vivekananda belonged to the 19th century, yet his message and his life are more relevant today than in the past and perhaps, will be more relevant in future because persons like Swami Vivekananda do not cease to exist with their physical death. Their influence and their thought, the work which they initiate, go on gaining momentum as years pass by, and ultimately, reach a fulfilment which these persons envisaged.