By SASE Singh; M.Sc. – Finance, ACCA
It is quite intriguing observing these Indian Elections over this 5-week period. The journalists that I have been following closely, like Economist/ Journalist Dr. Prannoy Roy, Dr. Yogindra Yadav, and those of their ilk have done a fantastic job of bringing truth to the Indian experience. For me, these psephologists use their quantitative power to augment their qualitative observations to present some astonishing conclusions.
India is now off the chart with respect to the quality of its electoral polls and informed conversations, which are giving its population a sense of higher confidence and fearlessness in these times. I am amazed at how actively involved the 45 million first-time voters are in expressing their political positions publicly. The easy answer for this boldness comes down to the fact that India is younger and more educated now than in past generations.
The country is currently in a youth bulge phase. It has the largest youth population in the world — a veritable army of almost 650 million people under the age of 25 years. This demographic change is what will power India over the next generation, and allow it to gain significant competitive advantages over swiftly aging countries like China and Japan.
But what is even more observable in these elections is how involved the women in South India are in their politics. I saw a study wherein it has been found that the South Indian women are more likely to be politicians, more likely to be more educated, and more likely to be income-earners; and less likely to be exposed to social crime, like domestic violence and rape, than their North Indian counterparts. The answer is simple — education.
On the eve of independence in 1947, the British left India with 17 universities and about 636 colleges, teaching approximately 238,000 students. Today, the tertiary student population is estimated at 37,600,000 (that is 37.7 million). The number of universities likewise grew from 17 when the British left to over 925 today, with most of these new schools opening in the South. The British left 636 colleges, but India today has over 18,000 colleges, with most of these offering highly technical courses. India also has a master plan to build 700 more universities and 35,000 colleges over the next decade.
When my colleague Dr. Euclid Rose suggested that UG should have a Linden and Essequibo Coast campus closer to Supenaam, I did not buy his idea in 2011. But I have finally seen his wisdom. Universities and colleges generate not only economic activities, but social changes in a society, by empowering the marginalised; and that intangible asset cannot be measured easily.
In India when the British left, women were more likely to be excluded, “dalits” (the untouchable class) were excluded, Muslims were excluded, and the “OBC” (other backward classes) were also excluded. But today, in India, inclusion is the name of the game. In India, there are more women candidates in office and running for office than ever before. However, it is disturbing how their North Indian counterparts are behind in representation, compared to the South.
Women in southern states like Tamil Nadu are forging ahead because many doors were broken down for them by Mrs Jayaram Jayalalithaa, a Chief Minister who ruled for 14 years until her death in 2016. Revered by her followers as “Amma” (Mother), she single-handedly brought to the women of Tamil Nadu opportunities and a work ethic that was all about excellence. Today Chennai is known as the “Detroit of India” and many of those jobs with spanners and welding plants are being done by skilled women.
What are the lessons for the women of Guyana? If you are not in the game, then the chances of you being at the table where the decisions are being made is contained. Thus I encourage first-time voters to sign on to political movements and express yourselves, share your ideas, and put yourselves forward for political positions.
Despite being a young nation with the median age of 24.9 years, Guyana hasn’t been able to elect younger leaders through its elections, with the average age of the current National Assembly being 58.2 years.
Guyana is in a mess, and one of the reasons, in my opinion, is that too many women are on the periphery of the political process. From their marginal seats, they are excluded from the table where the key decisions are being made.
I think it is time the youths under 50 years of age and women collaborate and demand at least 50 per cent of the spots on all the political lists. And if they get more, then it’s even better. It is not a privilege for the youths and women to serve at the highest levels in Guyana; it is their right, demographically speaking!