A series of activities are underway across the country today to keep the youth productively engaged during their summer holidays.
These activities celebrate youth and are held to nurture and harness their potentials. Such efforts are commendable.
But there is a small but growing number of youth who are increasingly getting trapped in socioeconomic problems. Cases of youth coming in conflict with law through substance abuse and criminal offences are on the rise and have today emerged as policy concerns.
Increased rate of youth coming in conflict with law could be attributed to better reporting and enhanced vigilance by law enforcement bodies. But this should be no consolation for inaction. Records with police show that in the last five years, 4,942 youth, those below 24 years were arrested in connection with drugs, alcohol, suicide and other crimes. The number is few hundreds less than the 5,371 youth who are today unemployed and higher than Gasa’s population.
These numbers sit uncomfortably with the achievements of the 11th Plan.
While substance abuse among youth has received much attention from all sections of the society, we still lack a comprehensive picture of the situation. Unlike the police records, which show that youth crime cases increased from 754 in 2013 to 1,563 in 2017, the 11th Plan’s final report shows a decline in youth crime from 231 in 2013 to 81 cases in 2017.
Statistics drive budget allocation, which dictate the activities that are planned to address these social ills. The people should not be misinformed in an attempt to paint a glowing image of the government. We expect better transparency from GNH commission, the nation’s planning agency.
Figures on number of youth arrested for substance abuse and those who committed or attempted suicide also do not tally. The 11th Plan’s final report shows that the number of youth arrested for substance abuse rose from 334 in 2013 to 972 in 2017. But police records show an increase from 338 in 2013 to 644 in 2017. Suicide cases involving youth according to the 11th Plan report remained at 25 in 2013 and 2018. But according to police, 33 youth suicide cases were reported in 2013 and 31 in 2017.
The discrepancy in records on youth maintained with government agencies is telling of the importance accorded to youth and their problems. We have sorely neglected the population we tout as the nation’s future. We don’t have a dedicated agency for youth and the haphazard way we function makes it convenient to escape responsibilities and accountability. Remembering youth during school holidays is not enough.
The numbers, however, show that we have failed to curb access to drugs and alcohol for the youth. We watch this spectacle helplessly, little realising that it is us – the elders, the policy makers and planners who are responsible for the youth problems the country is buckling under today.