If today one asks a kid in India who his/her role model is, celebrities from Bollywood or cricket are the most familiar answers. Occasionally, a few might bring up yesteryear’s freedom fighters like Gandhiji or Netaji.
“But why do we never find a role model among our present political leaders?” asks Prakhar Bhartiya, a youth activist and co-founder of Indian School of Democracy.
Today, politics in India is perceived as a dangerous abyss to step into, tainted with relentless corruption and delinquency. No matter how much a youngster is motivated to become a dynamic leader, he is almost always dissuaded by his family to get embroiled into politics.
This ingrained attitude of society cannot be uprooted in a day. This can only happen when people witness honest, upright young leaders marching onto the political scenario of the world’s biggest democracy.
With this thought in mind, Prakhar & Hemakshi Meghani floated the idea of Indian School Of Democracy – an institution exclusively dedicated to mentoring promising aspirants into young political leaders, through a series of global-standard courses and exercises.
“We believe that external change is manifestation of internal change and that’s why the fundamental focus of ISD will be on inner transformation. We will cultivate a habit of reflection and community that will help them in the not so easy tasks of selfless community service.” shares Hemakshi.
Four Pillars Of Democracy
Prakhar Bhartiya, a Teach For India fellow, is also the founder of Youth Alliance – a popular forum for conscious young men and women to be trained into emphatic leaders.
“My experience with Youth Alliance assured me that it was indeed possible to prepare young minds for electoral politics. I wanted to start a platform where driven youths are trained to become leaders with a strong moral compass and take on the four pillars of democracy – executive, legislative, judiciary and media,” Prakhar explains.
Indian School Of Democracy – The Blueprint
As per the present plan, Indian School of Democracy (ISD) will launch their one-year residential programme on leadership by next year. “The first-ever course will be centred around electoral politics. We will open our application portal in 2020 and expect our first cohort of selected students by 2021,” informs Prakhar.
The year-long programme will comprise theoretical sessions on politics, administration and other aspects of governance, as well as on-ground interactions with rural communities in remote hamlets to understand their woes and learn from them. Overall, the practice-oriented programme will ensure a holistic leadership training for the aspirants.
Moral Reimagination & Greater Participation Of Women
“To change the system, we need to focus on ‘moral reimagination’ – a practice we want to inculcate in our candidates,” shares Hemakshi, a graduate from Harvard Kennedy School in education policy and a former employee with Boston Consultancy Group. The ISD curriculum is thus being designed after interacting with politicians, academic experts and leadership coaches to render it foolproof.
Hemakshi throws light upon how ISD plans to encourage greater participation of women in politics.
At present, in a country of 1.3 billion people, the number of women politicians is woefully small, especially at the higher administrative levels. Thus, the idea persists that women’s grievances are not properly addressed by our government.
“While we should create more opportunities for women to enter politics, it is also important for political parties to readily welcome and accept more and more women. It has to be a two-pronged approach. This idea will be imparted at all ISD session. We are ensuring 50% participation of women in our present workshops,” Hemakshi informs.
A Meticulous & Non-Biased Selection Process
“We have a tedious selection process for every single government job. So, why don’t our politicians have to undergo any sort of screening before they occupy the highest seats of democracy and govern us?” Prakhar asks.
To ensure that the ISD programme identifies and generates the best youth leaders, Prakhar and Hemakshi have decided to dole out a meticulous selection procedure for the programme. Aspirants from all around the country will be shortlisted based on their leadership potential, merit and sincerity, irrespective of their gender, religion or socio-economic background. The age limit has been set between 25 and 40 years.
Laying The Groundwork
As of now, the core founding team of ISD is conducting awareness campaigns and two-three day workshops across India to gain an in-depth insight into the youth mindset in India while also spreading the word about their ISD initiative.
Their interactive brainstorming sessions with politically motivated youth in different cities, towns and villages in India are helping them see the bigger picture of the future of Indian politics. Prakhar and Hemakshi believe that this will help them to leave no loose ends in their course programme design.
“By the final month of their ISD training programme, they have to finalise the constituencies they wish to contest from. They have to live up to the expectations of the people they choose to serve,” Prakhar expresses his true hopes about ISD.
A Non-Partisan Political Organisation
As an organisation, ISD would be staying completely non-partisan and house candidates with different political ideologies together, who, after their graduation, are free to join the political party of their choice.
The idea, as the two founders believe, is to uphold the democratic ideals above everything else at the organisation, so as to acquaint the youths in various facets of democracy instead of encouraging sentimental politics driven by personal viewpoints.
“The larger idea of politics is public service. We are striving to bring back that idealistic firmness in politics, over and above its darker connotations,” Prakhar emphasises.
“If we fast forward to say, a decade ahead, I wish to see our graduates gaining prominence as new-age leaders, ushering in a different spectrum in the Indian political scene,” he expresses his wish.