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Country-Specific Panel Discussion on Impact of COVID-19 in Young People in India

Introduction of SAYF 2020

South Asian Youth Festival 2020 is organized to gather youths from South Asian Countries, connect with them, share and learn their perspective, and develop a strong bond. The 3- weeks-long program is organized on the occasion of International Youth Day 2020 to celebrate youth power, energy, creativity, success, and capabilities. This festival which is being organized virtually will continue till 3rd of September. The festival is organized in collaboration with various South Asian organizations like UNICEF- ROSA; UNESCO; A2I, Cabinet Division, Bangladesh, UNDP; National Youth Council Nepal; CYDA, India; CYN, Sri Lanka; Pinnacle Consultancy Pvt. Ltd, Maldives; Dynamic Youth Afghanistan; Maldives National Youth Council; Coca-Cola; Turkish Airlines & South-South Network.

Country-Specific Panel Discussion- India

The country panel discussion of India was centralized on the theme “Impact of COVID-19 in Young People in India” at South Asian Youth Festival 2020. The panel session was held on Thursday, 20th of August 2020. The discussion provided the opportunity to hear wonderful insights from the inspirational youths of India on how the impact of the pandemic has been magnified on the lives of young people of India, specifically concerning their mental health, education, employment and participation.

The country-specific panel discussion comprised of panelists; Ms. Malvika Fernandes, Mental Health Leader, Project Mumbai; Mr. Nitesh Singroul, Youth Activist; Ms.Mudita Jagata, Disability Rights Activist and Young Leader at Vartaleap Coalition, and Mr.Rupam Ghosh, Scientist and Technology Entrepreneur. The session was moderated by Mr. Debashis Majumder, President, Yuva Vikas Kendra &NIFFA Tripura, with the amazing young inspirational youths. 

The session was opened up with Ms. Sushila Shrestha, (Operation Manager at Glocal Pvt. Ltd) by addressing the motive behind organizing the festival and a short description of the South Asian Youth Festival 2020. She said- “South Asian Youth Festival 2020 is organized with the major motive of celebrating International Youth Day 2020 to celebrate youth energy, creativity, and enthusiasm. The festival started on the 12th of August and will conclude on the 3rd of September.”

The session headed towards the brief introduction of all the distinguished panelists. And the moderator of the session, Mr. Debashis Majumder, President, Yuva Vikas Kendra &NIFFA Tripura, warmed up the discussion with the questions for the panelist.

Mr. Nitesh Singroul, Youth Activist

Moderator: “How can experienced youth use it at the local level for economic development and social development?”

Mr. Nitesh mentioned that he would like to represent the whole youth from rural areas. As the migrants have different skills, if they return to the rural area then the problem arises that they have skill but they are not getting support from a local level to continue the skill because they went to urban areas, and they settled there in different industries. If they return in the rural areas, then those types of facilities are not obtained in the rural areas. Secondly, it can be divided into 4 parts. i) 18 to 30 groups fall under youth. They have lots of skills and experience but they do not get opportunities at the local level.  ii) They are settled in big institutions in urban areas. iii) self-employment opportunity iv) training opportunity. Research and survey is necessary.  The database should be there in the village area to find the skill level of the person. There are 4 categories: 1) who can work in rural areas. 2) who have expertise on the skills. 3) who can update skills 4) who are going to learn new skills. Firstly, the foreigners would be preferred because they do not bring uniformity to work. But now, they are working to bring the youth of their nation for enhancement of business. It should be done how these skillful youths can work in the self-employed form at the local level and their training must be conducted. There should be all leads in one row. So there should be a linkage program at the local level to bring economic and social growth. 

Moderator:” What would be the role of youth to retain their society in the mainstream after a pandemic?”

If youths in organized form could be trained or made ready, then two things like belief and norms should be changed and it depends upon the youth on the local level. They have to think that they can work long-term at the local level. If there is the production of the employment resources at the local level and fulfill public concern, then it will be effective and youths can work on it for future outcomes too. Youths are those groups which are always ready for learning and teaching. If they make such changes, then there will be economic and social progress at the local level too. 

Ms .Mudita Jagata, Disability Rights Activist and Young Leader at Vartaleap Coalition

Moderator: “Do you think that the disability act needs to be more strict in these pandemic situations? If yes, then what is the way?”

Ms. Mudita explained about disability aspects. The act related to the rights of disability aspect of 2016 which basically talks about certain things such as equality of opportunity, accessibility, non-discrimination, respect and independence etc. This act was actually adopted after the United Nations Convention on Right of Person with Disabilities. Based on these things, the Indian Act mentioned certain terms which is relevant to the current situation. The first term i.e. “barrier” which basically means any factor that may hamper the full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in society. Then, the second term i.e. “care-giver” includes parents and other family members who with or without payment provide care, support or assistance to a person with a disability. Adding, third term i.e. “discrimination” in terms of distinction, exclusion, restriction.  The fourth term i.e. “high support” means intensive support, physical, psychological and otherwise.  And finally, she explained another term i.e. “inclusive education” means a system of education wherein students with and without disability learn together in the system of teaching and learning. She also explained that these things have been a threat and difficult for the person with a disability. Along with this, she added that if the things that are already mentioned in the act are adored or followed, then that can go a long way in making a difference in providing help to the person with a disability. 

“Don’t think of changing something only if we follow what is actually there in the system that can go a long way in totally achieving wisdom.” Says Ms. Mudita.

Moderator: “How did disabled women and youth are affected due to COVID-19 pandemic?”

Ms. Mudita spoke about the disabled youth. Whenever we talk about the disability, the first thing that comes in our mind is the medical issues and also the fact that most people with disabilities have weak immunity. She added this medical issue hampers the other areas of life which mainly include socializing. Because of the pandemic, it has affected the rights of the people with disability, caretakers. She also mentioned that due to the current situation of a pandemic, 31 lakhs youth in India lost their jobs. It is more difficult for a person with a disability to lose their job. If the role matches the expectations of people then only, they apply for the job, but the person with a disability also has to see whether the place they are applying to their institutions is acceptable or not in terms of infrastructure, technology and other facilities that are required for the person of disability. These are the practical issues that affect disabled youth, along with this, she talked about education. The online classes and exams are taking place and some people with disabilities are not able to attend the class because of personal issues as well as lack of technology. Meanwhile, disabled youth worried about their future. These are the issues that a disabled youth, a young person with a disability is going through because of the pandemic that has come. 

As well as Ms. Mudita highlighted the women issue that the cases of domestic violence present in the pandemic. It is a problem for women with disabilities. She ended up her point by saying that these issues together need to be paid attention.

Ms. Malvika Fernandes, Mental Health Leader, Project Mumbai

Moderator: “How did the pandemic affect the student’s community?”

Before talking about how it affected her, she said it’s still affecting a lot of youth. There is chronic anxiety, chronic stress, chronic fear among youths, adolescents, students because there is lots of uncertainty and many of them have lost their jobs. Another thing, she explained the perception of society that we never look at the adolescence or younger people as the group of people who are getting more attention. When these age groups (child early age, old age) are vulnerable and important then we need to understand that it is a young adult’s resilience that is not going to help us. Adding more that youth is resilience and the perception of young people matters a lot and is really important. We need to hear the voice of the young before making decisions for young people.

Moderator: “Do you think that COVID-19 pandemic reduces the emotional attachment or brotherhood among the human being?”

Ms. Malvia said a lot of the majority of youth are very comfortable with social media using the internet to communicate. So, that has worked for better because a lot of youth have access, and a lot of them are savvy with using their phone, mobile and keep in touch. But, however, it is not the same as meeting with friends, or colleagues which do affect the emotional connection within the people. Another thing is that we are using mobile phones, the internet to connect people or to play games because that is something that they feel is in control. So, parents or caregivers need to be more flexible to meet the expectations of young people.

Mr.Rupam Ghosh, Scientist and Technology Entrepreneur 

Moderator: “What is the scope for encouraging the local income source especially in village areas?”

Mr. Rupam shared his perception of encouraging the entrepreneurs in the village area. There is a gap between jobs and skills in India as well. He mentioned two things i.e. “Lack of skills” and “Capital”. There is a lack of skills in young people; they have skills but they do not have perfect manners to use that. In this basis of initiation, the capital is only the way to get into the business. He explained about the interconnection between education and job.

Therefore, there needs to be self-employment training, research and engagement for Youths at the local level. Inclusion is really necessary for every sector. Another significant thing, he explained about the responsibility which is important for all youths and the people living in India. Many companies would want to move at least a part of their supply chains locally. This would lead to increased investment in India’s local industries and act as a shot in the arm for an economy in crisis. If we can control the local economy, we can control the whole of India. We need to create scope to encourage local sources, providing them with the skills and knowledge required in the job market.


The Country- Specific Panel session was ended in an intellectual, very interactive, and insightful way. It was indeed an excellent conversation with inspiring young youths for sharing their perspective on the impact of the pandemic on the lives of young people of India, specifically concerning their mental health, education, employment and social participation in the platform of the South Youth Asian Festival 2020.