VOICES Highlights- Migration, Unemployment, Digital and Substance Abuse Challenges Young people across South Asia met up at the VOICES occasion, a stage that intensifies their voices on squeezing social and private matters. All through the occasion, the members shared individual stories and bits of knowledge, revealing insight into the difficulties of migration, unemployment, digital addiction and substance addiction affecting the youth.

    VOICES  was inaugurated at the South Asian level at the Don Bosco Headquarters, Delhi, on July 12,  morning in Northeast traditional cultural by  welcoming the participants, singing welcome songs, washing of hands, putting kumkum on foreheads, bouquet of flowers, and honoring  Aadivasi shawl. Father Ernest , the coordinator of Voices, Father Harris Pakkam, Director of ANS, Rome, and in charge of the Social Communication sector in the South Asia region, Father Davis Maniparamben, Provincial of Delhi Province greeted the voices participants.

    During the VOICES event, several young individuals opened up about their experiences with substance addiction, highlighting its pervasive presence across various regions. Their stories underscored the need for effective measures to tackle addiction and promote rehabilitation programmes,each participants got 15 minutes to view and share, John Melwin, a music teacher from Hyderabad, recalled the sad story of his cousin-brother who became an addict. He opined that youngsters use drugs to charge their passion. Anoopraj, Coordinator of the DREAM Project (Drug Rehabilitation Education And Mentoring) in the state of Kerala,0 projected that there are 60 million drug addicts in India in the age group of 10-15 years. Citing case studies, he stated that the reasons for drug abuse are depression, behavioural personality disorders, physical issues, anti-social engagements and different kinds of physical abuse that demand ways to overcome such trauma.

    A video presentation of Dilip Nandhanan from Trichy, Tamil Nadu, disturbed the participants as he shared his plight with drug usage, relapse and rehab. Anmol Kujur, a student of Political Science and Aman Ekka, both from Jharkhand, presented various sides of drug abuse. Father Dickson Eugene, a communication delegate from Bangalore Province, coordinated the discussion.

    Unemployment emerged as another concern discussed at VOICES. Young speakers shared their struggles in finding suitable job opportunities, expressing their frustration and anxiety over the scarcity of employment prospects. Presenting the theme, Father Arvind Khalko, a delegate from Kolkata Province, indicated that 15.39 million are affected post-covid. Viman Fernando from Sri Lanka narrated the scenario of unemployment. He pointed out that the irrelevant education system, lack of skill enhancement and knowledge and slow economic growth have led to unemployment in Sri Lanka. Kishan Kisku hailing from an agricultural background in Bengal, said, “Poor education is the root cause of unemployment”. Adani Chamikho from Guwahati tabled several reasons for unemployment as the high population rate, geographical remoteness and connectivity challenges, skill gaps and mismatched education, insurgency and political instability affecting economic development, fewer trade opportunities and migration of skilled youth.

    Ronald Roy, a job placement officer from Kolkata, described the mindset of young people leading to unemployment. He said that young people unable to meet the targets demanded at the workplace drop out of jobs. With only a meagre salary offered, many migrate to greener pastures and in addition, the machine is replacing humans in the industry. The young speakers called for government initiatives to boost job creation, improve skill development programmes and bridge the gap between industry requirements and the skill sets of young job seekers.

    In an increasingly interconnected world, digital addictions have emerged as a significant challenge faced by the younger generation, said Br Aleister D’Souza, a delegate from Mumbai Province, introducing the theme. VOICES listened to the young people entranced by the endless streams of notifications, messages and entertainment, often leading to addictive behaviour. Sherwin Mark from Chennai related digital addiction to depression. Meanwhile, Vancouver Shullai, a young teacher from Shillong, said, “We have fallen in love with ourselves”. He further said that young people are afraid of solitude, being alone. Technology provides a sense of freshness for youngsters. For them, free time is phone time and not the playtime of yesteryears. Rahul Bora from Dimapur highlighted the destructive nature of technology in relationships. Many are into a superficial friendship, he said. Leander Viegas from Mumbai pointed out that ease of access and instant rewards cause digital addiction. It leads to a constant need for validation, fear of missing out (FOMO), anxiety arising from comparisons, decreased attention spans, sleep disorders and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

    VOICES was all-ears on the theme of Migrants. The allure of new opportunities in other parts of the country and outside often outweighs the potential disadvantages, said Olibha Kerketta from New Delhi. Several factors lead to migration: unemployment, low wage, a corrupted system, poverty, and lack of social security, she added. Sruthi Menon, Coordinator for the KISMAT Project (Kerala Interstate Migrants Alliance for Transformation), an initiative of the Salesian Province of Bangalore, presented a whopping population of 3.15 million migrants in Kerala. “Young migrants face the challenge of adapting to a new culture, language and social system. The financial constraints, discrimination, cheating and theft can be overwhelming”, she said. At the same time, migration has become an appealing option for young individuals seeking better economic prospects or fleeing challenging socio-political conditions, she added.

    Deepak Tirkey, a migrant who settled in Chennai, described the poor living conditions, often huddled in a small room with 8 to 10 labourers and unhygienic sanitation facilities, more hours of work, gender discrimination in wages, no education facility for children of migrant labourers and denial of maternity benefits. “Though some support systems are in place to aid young migrants in their integration process, like KISMAT Project in Kerala, the issues are big”, said Father Ashok Kujur, a delegate of communication in the Province of Delhi, in conclusion to the presentation on Migrants.

    Later on the event also provided a platform for participants to propose potential solutions and strategies to address these challenges, and appreciation certificate were given to the participants.

    The next day was the outing for all youth and delegates, visited Tajmahal, India Gate.

    It was great events in my life, had good experiences, gained knowledge from other youth and delegates.

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    Fr.Simolin SDB

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